...and to be honest, I'm losing my will to swim across the current.
I don't know where to start, but I resist reducing this to yet another "moment" metaphor.
It's an old, old school temperature reading of the American character. I'm talking analog, and I'm talking rectal.That's been my emotional takeaway as I've listened to and read SO much first ever reporting on race and the closing days of the 2008 presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain.
I'm not talking about the reporting and bloviating on the inescapable racial context of both campaigns' strategies and tactics, as worthy of thumb-sucking attention as it is. I'm taling about all the white people talking about their own race feelings, and that of their white neighbors, friends and relations.
My friends, as John McCain might start, I've been following this subject pretty much since I could read; I've never seen anything like this. I have never heard an "average Joe" white man squirm in abject frustration from repeated confrontation with the racial ignorance and animus of his own "people." That moment alone, part of an amazing episode (as there were any unamazing episodes) of This American Life on the McCain and Obama "ground games" in Pennsylvania.
Listen to "Dan's" story here and see what I mean.
Mind you, I'm not exultant. I'm empathetic. For the first time in a long time I felt like I might have been in that man's skin, because it sounded and felt like he had spent some time in mine.
Other good stuff, also on public radio (of course) has been the team up by NPR's Michelle Norris and Steve inskeep for an extended series of "focus group" report on race and the election. Their cross section is also taken from the Keystone State. Which goes to prove that, surprise, surprise, Washington and New York reporters need not traipse to all the way Missouri to discover authentic America, warts and all. Listen to the latest in the series here.
This categorically better than hearing talking heds like Cornell West or Abigail Thernstrom (or me) on this stuff, thoughtful and credible as they were on WNYC's Brian Leherer show Monday morning.
Here's the audio:
Why? Because THIS is the conversation I'm talking about. People talking peer to peer, not party to party or philosophy to philosophy.
This is not one Princeton prof defending for the umpteenth time the dignity and worth of the black race, or proclaiming the persisence of racism. This is not one, but many ordinary white "Joes" saying that if Obama were white he'd be winning by a landslide.
And in so doing, they just might make it so.
Do check out the TAL segment about the black "Democrats For McCain" workers. It features two black men who go door to door making it easy for white Hilary Democrats rationalize support for supporting the Republican candidate with the mirror opposite record. As more whites are willing to come bursting out of the closet with what sounds like—to me, anyway—thinly coated excuses for a racist vote against Obama, I am heartened.
Why? Because if they're representative, I can believe the equally good recent reporting that in 2008 we really need not fear a "Bradley Effect" robbing us from a straight up and down referendum on the state of America's most chronic illness. No matter how much you squirm, you just can't get that mercury filled bulb out of your backside until it registers, one way or the other.
It means I might—just might—be able to believe the polls.