These last days of the campaign are more tense than they should be, at least for me. As I look at Barack Obamas' numbers in states like Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania, thoughts and feelings rise to the surface, or evolve. There is leftover angst, cynicism and anger from 2000 and 2004, and I can't help but fear that something will happen in these final days to put McCain in the White House.
Some Lefties are worried about somebody literally taking a shot at Obama, but that is one of those things that is beyond our control. Political assassination is woven into the fabric of the American political experience, they have repeatedly changed history. We can't ignore that, but unless you're working for the Secret Service, it's not something we can work to prevent. We've learned from Bobby and Jack and Martin, and we must hope we've learned enough.
I'm also inclined to feel that, if such a horrible thing were to happen, McCain and Palin would be partially, if abstractly, to blame. If I said that on a mainstream television show, I'd probably be mocked for it; a paranoid, Socialist radical demonizing the Right. While I'm sure that McCain and Palin are not accomplices to assassination, I can't ignore my deep and profound worry that accusations of being "anti-American" and "a terrorists' friend" have a bit too much emotional currency with many on the Right. And as Obama moves closer and closer to an apparent landslide, it wouldn't surprise me at all if an individual, or even a group, decided to do something about an anti-American about to take office. Would you? Especially when combined with the charge that Obama is a "secret Muslim." The implication being that Muslim=terrorist.
There is such a thing as dangerous rhetoric. Most of us probably know that McCain had to calm a woman down at one of his rallies, a woman deeply upset that a secret Muslim friend with terrorists could win the White House. Depending on how you feel about McCain, you may think that he deserves credit for what he did. Some say that it was a brief flash of the McCain who ran in 2000. Maybe so. Maybe so.
But if McCain is reigning in the mob, Palin is lighting their torches. She isn't a candidate for Vice President, she's a candidate, that's it (see "The Candidate" with Robert Redford). It's an occupational step-up for her, so she wants it. Bad. She attacks the media and Obama, back and forth. To her, "intellectual" is an epithet. Simply put, she is a thug who feels god is on her side. Her rhetoric against the New York Times one day after another compelled someone to send a harmless white powder to that newspaper. It brought back memories of ricin-laced envelopes after 9/11, and caused another bout of deep and profound fear to descend on a newspaper. People with opinions and reporting the news being made to be terrified.
Naturally, Palin can't control all supporters, and if something happens to Obama I wouldn't blame rhetoric alone. But is it so far-fetched so be concerned that a self-described "patriot" may decide to stop an anti-American terrorist consorter from being president? Out of a total lack of any cohesive campaign message that reaches beyond the Far Right, McCain/Palin is/are embracing these shameless attacks. Indeed, if somehow McCain wins, it will be because of the fear and intellectual dishonesty that has become that campaign's "strategy."
So if they may benefit by their hateful, stupid labeling, why not blame them if it gets out of hand? The Republicans are either blind to the hate and ignorance they are tapping into, or are acutely aware of it. Either way, they aren't fit to run anything, let alone a country of 330 million people.
There are echoes of McCarthyism whenever a politician questions the patriotism of another for political gain. Palin has embraced something deeper and more insidious than Red-baiting, she's into creating the illusion of a fundamental division in this country between an American and a "real" American. Her accusations are more toxic than anything old Joe ever cooked up, to the point that she has lost touch with reality. Anyone who disagrees with her Right Wing Evangelism isn't wrong, they are not even a part of the country she is campaigning so hard to lead. That is not only idiotic, but it's dangerous. McCain knows that a line was crossed at many, many rallies, and perhaps a fundamental decency compelled him to apply the brakes. I'm convinced, however, that Palin would not hesitate to say or do anything to get elected. As much as I dislike McCain, I know there is a good man in there with whom I disagree, but a good man nonetheless. And it looks to me that he is struggling with the question of how far to go to get elected. Palin, however, is either a megalomaniac or just an arrogant prick, and she's shockingly stupid. If she can get away with it, she'll do it or say it. The word I'd use is, "reckless."
Remember, if Obama meets an unsavory end, now or at any time in his presidency (if he wins) don't be so quick to join hands with your fellow American Republicans in mourning the tragedy. First ask yourself if some of those "real American" leaders may have contributed to it. American politicians who accuse their colleagues of being anti-American have lost the right to lead all Americans, and that's what a president does. Even the ones he or she doesn't like.