A Brief Black Liberal Rant

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The road to a Romney victory is really, really rocky. Ezra Klein sums this up in the following piece. A few excerpts:

On the presidential level, where everyone running campaigns is very, very good at their jobs, campaign infighting and incoherence tend to be the result of a candidate being behind in the polls, not the cause of it. Romney is behind and has been there for quite some time. According to the Real Clear Politics average of head-to-head polls, Romney hasn't led the race since October 2011. The closest he came to a lead in the polls this year was during the Republican National Convention, when he managed to ... tie Obama...

This year, it was the Democrats who made the biggest gains from before to after the conventions. Obama is leading by 3 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, about double his lead before the Republican convention. If that doesn't fade by the end of the week or so -- that is, if it proves to be a real lead rather than a post-convention bounce -- then there's simply no example in the past 15 elections of a candidate coming back from a post-convention deficit to win the popular vote.

This is about the point where I'm supposed to write: That said, the race remains close, and the debates are coming soon. It's still anyone's game. But the most surprising of Erikson and Wlezien's results, and the most dispiriting for the Romney campaign, is that unlike the conventions, the debates don't tend to matter. There's "a fairly strong degree of continuity from before to after the debates," they write. That's true even when the trailing candidate is judged to have "won" the debates. "Voters seem to have little difficulty proclaiming one candidate the 'winner' of a debate and then voting for the opponent," Erikson and Wlezien say.
Gallup agrees. The august polling firm reviewed the surveys it did before and after every televised presidential debate and concluded they "reveal few instances in which the debates may have had a substantive impact on election outcomes. " 

The Romney campaign tends to point to two elections to show how its candidate could win this thing. There's 1980, when Jimmy Carter supposedly led Ronald Reagan until the debates, and 1988, when Michael Dukakis was leading by 13 points after his convention. In fact, Reagan led going into the 1980 debates. And although Dukakis's convention bounce was indeed large, it was wiped out by Bush's convention bounce, which put him back in the lead.
I think there is something about this particular moment in liberalism wherein we attribute magical powers to the letters G and O and P. There seems to be a popular sense that  Sheldon Adelson is an archlich, and the Koch brothers are the Crimson Twins. Maybe it's the 2000 election, I don't really know.  

I am not making predictions, but I am going to gush here: I think Barack Obama is a gifted politician, and a ruthless campaigner. That his opponents (and even some of us) don't really get this, that we think he is merely lucky, only heightens the joy I feel watching him do work. I don't expect to ever feel like this again in my life. The good times are so rare. As a liberal, I see nothing wrong with looking at the math, and then enjoying the moment. It does not preclude voting, nor making sure friends and family vote. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. I'll move on.

The thing is this: As a black person, there's a sort of Cinderella effect. We were not supposed to be here -- not in this time. We were supposed to inaugurate Starfleet before we inaugurated a black president. And yet here we are. And it has been so much worse in the past.

Not to go all race man, but I cut on the television and I see Barack Obama say, "I'll let the American people be the judge of that" and I get warm in a way that I know my people understand. And none of this was supposed to happen. When I was young I was convinced that I should have been black in another time. (Wouldn't it have been great to be like my Dad, rocking the black beret, and aiming guns at the cops?) Sometimes I fall victim to Civil War fantasy, but in my heart I would not have wanted to see any other time, as a black person, than this one. 

It is a particular thing to be black and watch Barack Obama. I can't even explain it. There is a picture of Muhammad Ali after he beats Sonny Liston where where he, with mouth agape, points at the people sitting in the press room who insisted the Louisville Lip would be killed. The feeling conveyed in that picture is what it's like to be black and watch Obama. 

I don't know if that translates. Perhaps I need some libertarian cousins.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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