One thing that has characterized the campaign for President, from the hotly contested primaries to right now, is the utter predictability of it all. There have been a few small hiccups (the Palin pick, Gustav, Fred Thompson) but for the most part, what seemed likely to happen from early in the campaign has borne itself out. It makes it all the more frustrating as the press fumbles for false drama in an era of 24 hour news cycles.
During the race between Obama and Clinton, things became pretty obvious after Iowa. Obama's victory in Iowa was the longshot. After that, pundits quickly said "It's likely Obama will win these States and Clinton will win these States." It all came down precisely as it was laid out way back in February. By hanging in with Clinton on February 5th (remember Super Duper Tuesday?) Obama opened up a lead that most of the press predicted; and Clinton never recovered. Even as she ran hard towards the finish line, her chances of winning the nomination were based, mostly, on mistakes Obama never made. He won the nomination months and months ago.
Even the "scandals" were predictable. The Rezko thing never really became news to anyone but insiders. The Jeremiah Wright thing was predicted to come up as early as Iowa. Clinton's attacks (and McCain's) were predictable, and the only reasonable arguments to make against Obama. Obama won the old fashioned way; by the numbers. It's been historic; but the results of the race up to now were not in real question. They were reported dramatically. There's a big difference.
Watching the DNC was another example. The false drama of the Clinton's hijacking Obama was never a real possibility and the mock-surprise that the way the Clintons handled themselves was pure fabrication. The Clintons both gave conventionally excellent speeches that sounded remarkably like all their other speeches. Obama knocked it out the of the park because that's what the man does at a podium. He's done it time and time again.
Now there's a false drama about the outcome. Progressives, gun shy from years of getting kicked around, are being hornswoggled by reports that the polls are close. In reality, Obama has been leading McCain in the polls for a long time, and the electoral map favors him in no uncertain terms. That's not to say surprises do not appear...anything is possible. But what's probable? Not a McCain victory.
McCain won because his competitors in the Republican field were weak or idiotic. Guiliani committed political suicide by campaigning only in Florida. Mitt Romney ran an awful self-funded race. Thompson was a flash-in-the-pan. Huckabee didn't have the political machinery to seal the deal. Ron Paul was never in the running.
Now, a shadow of the man McCain used to be is running uphill against a phenomenal candidate who has, let's face it, made almost no major mistakes.
Obama ran against and beat the Clintons. No small feat. He's made reasonable appeals to the middle without seeming too politically opportunistic. He addressed questions of race in a mature manner befitting a President. He made a smart VP choice. He's gracefully handled sticky nuanced issues. He's run against charges of being too inexperienced, too black, not black enough, and too popular. Again and again, he's come through. When the press was ready to write him off as unable to attack, he walked out in front of a crowd of 75,000 people and eviscerated McCain. He's performed under pressure, and still come off seeming (at the very least) like a loving father and good husband.
Despite all this, because of what happened to John Kerry and Al Gore, and because we're terrified that racism will beat Obama in the end; Democrats that I listen to are always saying "But the polls are close!" They're not. We're in the lead. I know it's hard to take or believe; but we are.
I'm not advocating resting our our laurels or not working hard to seal the deal. And I could still be disappointed. But let's face the facts, not the media generated fears. This has played out predictably from the start. If McCain wins, it will be a surprise. If anything, with the Palin choice, he's made it that much harder for himself and probably alienated Clinton voters more than he had before.
Let's turn our attention to winning, not staving off defeat, for once.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.