Waiting for the future

NEW JERSEY - This is the pathetic point America has reached. Bill Clinton's 48-minute speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, South Carolina last Wednesday night, in which he officially nominated Barack Obama as the Democratic party's presidential candidate, was the first instance of white minstrelsy in American politics. The whole purpose of the speech was to use a prominent and-or so it was believed-beloved white politician to expound Barack Obama's ideas. The hope was that by the end of the speech, Americans might actually believe that a white, not a black man, was running for president.

Lee Siegel,

09 de setembro de 2012 | 01h00

I sound cynical, I know, but it is becoming clearer by the day that, as I have maintained in this column before, Mitt Romney will be the next president of the United States. The accumulating proof is irrefutable. Though Romney has shown himself to be, time and time again, a heartless businessman with no spine or vision for the country, he and Obama are tied in the polls. Democrats, who have trouble accepting reality when it seems to contradict their moral expectations, are constantly repeating the fact that the polls show Obama way ahead of Romney is the category of likeability. Well, so what? There is only one issue that decides the fate of an incumbent president, and that is how people are faring economically. Between 70 and 80 percent of the people asked, in several different polls, if they think the economy is on the right track say no. If those numbers continue, and they almost certainly will, the iron law of American elections will take effect. Times are hard? Throw the bums out.

Race, as I have also argued before, plays the major role. An anti-Obama film called "Obama's American 2016", thick with racial prejudice, recently opened and quickly became one of the highest-grossing political documentaries ever made. The people who say they like Obama more than Romney could well be concealing their unease with a black president behind a show of "it's nothing personal." They like him the way bigots used to protest, "But some of my best friends are black!" Sure, they like him. They just don't want him sitting in the White House.

The contrast between the people attending the Republican and the Democratic conventions was striking. I am going to be blunt and state outright what everyone around me whispers but no one will say in print or on the air. The Republican crowd was, taken in the aggregate, about several million pounds heavier than the Democratic crowd and seemed to be floating in a sea of bad cholesterol. May I quickly add that I write as what someone once called called a left conservative, who takes a pill everyday to control his cholesterol and could lose about 15 pounds, easy. Still, taking into account exceptions to the weight distinctions in American politics, the right flies the banner of Macdonald's while the left fights under the flag of arugula. People in despair eat to excess as if to cannibalize and control the world arrayed against them-I've been there, or almost there. The right is in despair.

Just as the North Vietnamese could not be beaten by the Americans because they were defending their very homes, the right will not lose to the left in November because they are fighting for their very lives. They will vote with the ferocity of the cornered. Changing demographics are against them. The white ethnics are giving way to growing new groups of Americans like Latinos and Asian-Americans. Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas who gave the transporting keynote speech at the Democratic convention, is the face of the future. So is the Mayor of Los Angeles and chairman of the Democratic National Convention, Antonio Villaraigosa, who also spoke.

It was significant, in this respect, that the Republicans relied on Clint Eastwood to tear down the president in his now-famous empty chair speech. A few years ago, Eastwood made a film called "Gran Torino," in which he plays a Polish-American factory worker who has lost his job and who loathes the Asian immigrants who have populated his neighborhood-though, in the end, he comes to accept them. Berating the president sitting in effigy in that empty chair, Eastwood stood for those Americans who are not only losing their jobs and homes, but also feel that they are losing their place in society. The empty chair was an anxious projection of dread. The Americans Eastwood was appealing to feel, more and more, like invisible people. They fear they will disappear one day soon, leaving only empty homes, empty factories, empty chairs. Bizarre though it might have been, Eastwood's performance was powerfully effective.

The Democrats will, I believe-and hoping that I am wrong-lose the battle this November, but they will win the war. The crowd at the Republican convention was overwhelmingly white. The crowd at the Democratic convention was the color of the new America-black, brown, yellow, red, (struggling and impoverished) whites, and everything in between. It is a future in which a black president will not need to make his case behind a white face. It is a future that is certain-and by no means without its own injustices and deformities-but still waiting to be born.

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