Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Point of Departure

For some reason I can't embed video on this bloggy thing. Maybe I'm just not that good at computers. Watch this though.

The woman they interview is not representative of this country, obviously, but she does illustrate the worst of the American psyche. From Goldwater and Nixon, but especially since Regan, to John McCain and Pallin, the GOP has been the party of division and hate, winking at white voters, reasurring them that they have allies in government.

While it appears unlikely that that strategy will work this year, these tactics have the unfortunate effect of creating monsters like the woman in the video above. She doesn't even know what she's saying. She doesn't know why she hates Muslims, but she knows she does.

Idiots like this aren't going anywhere, but when you watch something like that, it's hard to feel any connection with that person at all. How could she and I, or she and any of my friends, ever have a real conversation? How could we get to a point of agreement from which to start?

That's a troubling thought. It's a cliche to say, "some people you can't reason with," but what if there are some people you can't even talk to? I can't really remember anyone back in Iowa that ever talked like woman in the interview. I'm sure I could've sought out people like that, but if you were just eating a pretzel in the mall food court you'd never overhear, "Obama is a terrorist."

Maybe people like her are very rare, but their ignorance is so deep and profound it multiplies their small numbers into standing armies. Maybe I had blinders on in Iowa, and that kind of hate was only just below the surface. My high school had a cross burned on its lawn several years before I went there. The town was outraged, as I recall, but that's upsetting nonetheless. Even with that event it's hard to know how many people sat in their living rooms secretly approving of the burning cross, only to denounce it in public.

Which brings me back to Obama and the Bradley effect, named after Tom Bradley, a black man who lost the governer's race in California in 1982. The effect, which offers an explanation for discrepancies between voter polls and how people actually vote (racism), has been talked about a lot concerning Obama. It looks like he's far enough ahead in the polls for the effect to not matter, but it is impossible to know how many people secretly identify with the woman in the interview. If Obama does lose, which is looking increasingly unlikely, then the only explanation will be the Bradley effect and voter disenfranchisement. If that happens, it will answer some of the questions I've posed. In a bad way.