Hmmmmm. A crowd of only 4000 people when Obama appeared with Biden? Two things could be going on here.
The first: Obama may be showing signs of timidity. By choosing an establishing Washingtonian for his VP, has he done that most dangerous of things – sacrificed courage for pragmatism? If so, he’s doomed. Obama is nothing except the hope for change; if he loses that respect, there’s really nothing left.
The second is that perhaps most people have already decided on Obama (or McCain) and don’t see any point taking part in the festivities. Obama fatigue has set in. The next ten weeks will be frustrating for both candidates, but better for McCain. My call has always been that Obama would lead the race, but McCain would win. Either outcome, of course, is far better for the world than the disastrous Bush/Cheney years.
But it’s always dangerous reducing American elections to simple better/worse overviews when the country is so vast and varied… from the East Coast’s blue liberal intellectualism to the uneducated hopelessness of the red interior, where millions live in near-third-world poverty. And of course, the differences between the USA’s left and right are far smaller than in Britain, even after years of centrism from both main parties. Most Americans know that the differences in actual policies after the next election will be tiny.
From the outside looking in, it’s obvious Obama will be far better for the world as a whole – presenting America the way it sees itself, as a beacon of hope rather than the frightened bully so obvious for seven years. But that doesn’t mean a whole lot to a non-college-educated working pauper in the deep south, who’s seen dignified blue-collar jobs depart and his city, home, and credit crumble. For that guy, voting Republican – so he can keep his guns and hold on to his self-righteous anger – makes a lot of sense. It takes a lot to hold onto your ideology when your family’s hungry.
Or maybe there’s a third force at work here: the death of ideology. Does anyone really have any anymore? In the UK, Cameron certainly doesn’t; Brown does, but nobody wants it; in the USA there doesn’t seem to be any: all politics is just bread and circuses. I’ll still hope Obama gets in, just for the warmth and humanity he might bring to the world stage. But I think the moment where it seemed likely has passed.