Saturday, November 1, 2008

Obama Landslide, The Conservative Reaction

Democracy and free market capitalism are the two ideals that have guided America since the beginning of the country. Then, three weeks ago, things began to change. Nobel prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, said that the meltdown of Wall Street was to free market capitalism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was to Communism. He probably has it right, but only time will tell. And now, with the 2008 presidential election just three days away, I wonder if the other shoe isn’t about to fall.

More than any other single factor, Democracy depends on having the losing side in an election freely concede the loss and willingly accept the outcome. For the last dozen or more years, when the contests ran, essentially, 50-50, the losing side could console itself with the belief that things would turn in the next election cycle. But this year, the prospect of a true Democrat blowout makes me wonder if the losing side would peacefully accept the outcome. Fueling this worry of mine is the venomous and vindictive nature of the opposition to Obama. I’m not talking about the stuff that you hear in McCain and Palin stump speeches, although some of their tone, even more than their words, pushes the line on civility. The hostility to Obama that frightens me is the material that reaches the true right-wing believers via talk radio and printed pamphlets. I’ve seen numerous pamphlets that depict Obama as a blackface minstrel, in racist imagery that hasn’t been seen since the 1960s. A paradox lies in the fact that an Obama victory would prove that almost all of America has moved past the old race-based doubt and hatred. But if the victory becomes a landslide, then the broad-based conservative and fundamentalist Christian paranoia about liberalism will meld with the lingering racism in that small right-wing minority, and the cumulative result will not be pretty. I hope I’m wrong about this, but when the conservative talk-radio ayatollahs pour their gasoline on the fire, I just can’t see their listeners giving a liberal black President any kind of fair-minded acceptance.

As I’ve watched the liberal-conservative, Democrat-Republican tug-of-war degenerate into a deep polarization over the years, I’ve come to believe that America is just one Democratic presidential landslide away from a good old-fashioned civil war, complete with shooting and widespread riots— and that was before the face of liberalism had a black complexion. Most Americans would say that civil war can’t happen, and that Democracy is more precious to us than liberal or conservative ideology, but most Americans also thought, until three weeks ago, that free market capitalism was solid as a rock.

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