October 7th, 2008

Nate Silver has a remarkable post suggesting Georgia may be a toss-up state. To get there, Nate needs all the imponderables on the registration and turnout of African-Americans and youth to go Obama’s way. I don’t expect to see this, but the fact that any case can be made is extraordinary. As Nate says, if Georgia is in play, Obama has already won the election. So does it matter?

Yes. It will make a big difference to the Obama administration whether he wins the election by a narrow margin or WINS by a huge one, in states and the popular vote. There’s an outside chance of a 60-seat Democratic Senate proof against GOP filibusters, but even so this majority will still include a lot of unreliable rightwingers on any given issue. The purpose of the Obama campaign cannot be to make Joe Lieberman more important. A fat electoral win would give President Obama the “bully pulpit” moral authority, vis-à-vis both Congress and the people, that George Bush so signally lacked before 9/11. Historians will no doubt debate how far the constitutional extremism and Stuart-like claims of prerogative of the Bush/Cheney administration were an attempt to clothe this nakedness with smoke and mirrors.

The other reason to hope for a big victory lies in the overused metaphor crushing. This election is not about the genteel replacement of Her Majesty’s Government by Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, the alternation of Disraeli and Gladstone, but a struggle for the soul of the American polity. If you believe as I do that the Bush administration has been not just misguided but in important respects evil, its ideology not just wrong but partly crazy, and its base still deeply tainted by racism and hatred, then a catastrophic defeat of the current Republican party is essential if a principled and decent conservatism is to replace it.

So I say to Obama’s army: keep marching, burn the goddammed plantations, and make your country truly free.

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