In 24 hours, the voting opens on the east coast of the United States. This long, glorious, amazing race that I and millions of other people have been following intently for the last year will draw to a close. Many spectators are saying that they’re sick of it and wish it would end already. I’m not and I don’t. I love this shit. It’s my equivalent of the Grand Final or the Superbowl, and this year’s showdown promises to beat even Australia’s federal election in ’07.

Polling data, narrative convention and a wild sense of optimism suggest Obama will win. The sick feeling in my gut suggests that the old white Republican will inevitably win, no matter what the polls say. Millions of powerless global onlookers will sigh, mutter “stupid Americans” and buckle up for another four years of having their economy ravaged, the threat of terrorism increased, and the issue of climate change ignored.

Here’s my prediction now: Obama wins the popular vote by roughly 5%, and takes all Kerry states plus Virginia, Colorado, Iowa and maaaybe Ohio. Pennsylvania will come close, but Obama will just scrape across the finish line. Vice versa for Florida and New Mexico.

Okay, so I’m deliberately damping down the more likely outcome because I have, as Tom Tomorrow does, “faith that the Democrats can pull this one out of the fire at the last second and lose.” If current estimates hold, it’s quite likely that Obama will also take Nevada, Florida, New Mexico, Missouri and North Carolina, and he has a glimmer of hope in Indiana and North Dakota. In my wildest dreams he might even steal Georgia from under McCain’s nose. It is going to be a Barackslide. An Obamalanche. Unless lazy college students stay home and don’t vote, or the Bradley Effect turns out not to have dissipated after all, or the simple overwhelming stupidity of the average voter once again bursts out of the sewers, lashing its tentacles about and screeching some awful Lovecraftian dialect.

I’m not saying you’d be stupid to vote for McCain. You are stupid if you voted for Bush, and you would be stupid to vote for Palin, but McCain is different. He would make a competent president. Perhaps not a humane or sensible or wise president, but certainly not a semi-retarded disaster like the idiot cowboy we’ve had in the White House for the last eight years. Perhaps your personal beliefs coincide with McCain’s. Perhaps you want to keep your guns and think abortion is wrong and believe that taxes are evil. I find such beliefs utterly alien, but what can you do?

I mentioned narrative convention earlier. As a writer, I tend to see things in terms of how natural a story it makes, as do most political campaigners. If a young, inexperienced athlete somehow struggles all the way through the heats and trials and ends up racing against the arrogant Caribbean sprinter at the Olympics, he is going to win. If a young soldier sitting in the muddy trenches shows his sergeant a photograph of his girlfriend waiting back home in Kansas, he is going to get shot. If a young black politician with a gift for eloquent speeches and a belief in clean campaigning, who posesses a balance between pragmatism and idealism, who maintains a calm and steady demeanour in contrast to the fiery black demagogues of the past – if he takes on the Republican Party after eight years of a stormcloud over America, after eight years of a fucked-up economy, a fucked-up reputation, a fucked-up war and a fucked-up environment – if he comes out of nowhere to challenge an old white right-wing military vet who engages in the politics of fear, who encourages the culture wars, who thinks you can defeat a religious ideology with tanks and soldiers – a man who may be more intelligent than his predecessor, but is certainly no more respectable – he is going to win.

We are standing at a watershed moment in history. If Obama wins it will be a monumentous day, a line drawn under the failed policies of the last eight years and the inherent racism of the last three hundred. It will be, after 9/11 and possibly Hurricane Katrina, the most memorable snapshot of this decade.* A black man, standing on the steps of the Capitol with snowflakes dusting his shoulders, placing a hand against the Bible and swearing the oath. We will remember that image for as long as we live.

If McCain wins, on the other hand, it will be a boring story. It will be Just Another Old White President.

Reading back over that it seems like I’m saying you should vote for Obama because he’s black – which you shouldn’t, of course. There are plenty of other reasons you should vote for him: his intellectual curiosity, his good education, his sane willingness to engage with other nations (including those considered enemies), his concern for all American citizens (not just the wealthiest upper crust), his basic decency and, above all, the fact that he is a Democrat after a long, ugly Republican era. The pendulum is swinging to the left, and it’s time for a change. You should vote Democratic in this election. The fact that the Democratic candidate is black is not the rationale behind this. It’s merely a fortunate bonus.

From Justin Webb, the BBC’s North America correspondent, whose laudably non-partisan blog I have followed for months, as he recaps the last of his three greatest moments in the campaign:

The third moment was also in Denver, but was outside the hall as I wandered lost, looking for the portable office we were calling home.
Suddenly, in front of me there is activity. Men in grey suits are talking into their sleeves. Huge, sleek cars are being revved. Motorbikes are getting into formation.
It is not him, it is his family.
As the SUVs pass – including several with the doors and back windows open, men with large automatic weapons looking out with keen hard glares – I catch just a glimpse of the children, of 10-year-old Malia and seven-year-old Sasha peering out. I think their mother was sitting in the middle.
This is the true revolution.
There have been, after all, prominent black politicians for decades now, men and women afforded the full protection and respect that the nation can muster.
But seeing little black children gathered up into the arms of the secret service, surrounded by people who would die rather than let them die, is to see something that must truly make the racists of Americas past revolve in their graves.
I do not think Barack Obama will win or lose because of his race, but if he does win, the real moment you will know that America has changed is not when he takes the oath, but when we see pictures of tiny people padding along the White House corridors – a black First Family – representing America and American-ness.
True, Americans tire of their presidents, but in their early years they hold huge sway, they set the style.
Americans will look in the mirror, metaphorically speaking, and black faces will look back.
I wonder if the Obama children have ever asked the question: “Are we nearly there?”
The answer, at last, is: Yes, we are nearly there.

From the New Yorker, via the Guardian:

The election of Obama – a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of 21st-century America – would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting – rights acts of the 1960s and the century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks. At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.

And from a pair of Canadian comedians whom I have never heard of, but whom I would like to shake the hands of, a reminder that no matter what the outcome of this election or this century, there’ll be plenty to laugh at – and that if you vote for any ticket that ever features Sarah Palin you deserve whatever hideously incompetent government you get.

Get out there and vote!

For Obama!

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*Unless, of course, he gets assassinated next year.

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