Sunday, October 12, 2008

Holding My Breath

Last July I predicted that John McCain will win , based on the underlying conservatism of the American electorate and the likely appeal of the McCain campaign to racist tendencies that still persist in our society.

As I write this the polls show Obama with about a 6-point lead over McCain. Despite this lead I’m sticking with my prediction for two reasons.

First, in the past couple of weeks the McCain campaign has ratcheted up their attempts to discredit Obama using the kind of insidious innuendo and rhetoric I predicted, for example by suggesting Obama was closely involved with ‘60's activist William Ayers. Sarah Palin’s campaign talks have become increasingly strident and are striking a racist chord. As Elisabeth Bumiller of the NY Times reported, at one Florida rally a racial insult was hurled at an African-American television cameraman and a man yelled “kill him” when Obama’s name was mentioned. At other rallies members of the crowds have yelled “off with his head!” The McCain campaign has pointed out that Obama, too, has made disparaging remarks about McCain’s character and that of his supporters. To my knowledge, however, no one at an Obama rally has been observed calling for violence against McCain or Palin. Fox “News” has joined in this attack against Obama with a recent hour-long program trying to portray Obama as a close associate of radicals, especially William Ayers. LA Times correspondent James Rainey has throughly debunked the show , but facts are probably not going to sway the estimated 2 million people who watched the program.

Second, the lead that Obama has in the polls cannot warrant optimism because there is a well-documented tendency for polls to be especially unreliable in estimating support for African-American candidates. As discussed in a NY times article by Kate Zernike , “there are plenty of ways that race complicates polling. Considered alone or in combination, these factors could produce an unforeseen Obama landslide with surprise victories in the South, a stunningly large Obama loss, or a recount-thin margin.” We enter here the realm of Social Psychology concerning self-presentation strategies, impression management, and the link between attitude and behavior as pertaining to polling.

Bottom line: This won’t be over until it’s over.


PaddleDoc said...

I share your concerns and hope your prediction turns out wrong. I have some basic hope it may happen that Obama will win. Your points are well taken and certainly McCain and his supporters will exploit every feint of hand to make it so. More disturbing to me are the efforts to keep people from voting. The efforts at the media level regarding character, stereotypes and issues pale besides the underhanded tricks of disenfranchisment. One trick is to "inform" potential voters that police will be checking people who show up to vote for outstanding warrants. All I can say is no more Bush agenda by any name! Thanks for your thoughts. DN

Richard Sherman said...

Thanks for the comments. There is a somewhat scary editorial by Bob Herbert the very recently has debunked the Acorn misrepresentation that the Republicans are spreading and at the same time shows the efforts they are expending to keep Democratic voters from voting. --


Richard Sherman