World of Chig   

Making History

A black American has been elected President. Congratulations then to Kym Mazelle, who achieved that feat on Celebrity Scissorhands today. (I’ve seen those voluminous breasts of hers in the flesh, but that’s another story, for another day.)

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we have a historic victory for a man born of a black father and a white mother, after a two year campaign which he started very much as the inexperienced underdog, fighting against older and more experienced opposition, as well as overt racism.

So well done to Lewis Hamilton on becoming world Formula 1 champion. But will we be able to repeat that sentence in a few hours’ time, with reference to Barack Obama? Fingers crossed, even though I would still have preferred it to be Hillary Clinton for a President with substance, rather than style. Much as I’ll be glad to see a President Obama, if it happens, I still haven’t a clue where he stands, policy-wise, on almost anything, despite having followed this long campaign as closely as any other Five Live listener and TV news viewer. My English literature teacher once described my sixth form essays as “all style and no content” (which was hardly surprising as I was writing about books I hadn’t yet read). It was a criticism I wore with pride, but every time I have heard Barack Obama’s speeches, I have been reminded of my teacher’s comment. Obama is rousing and inspiring, using all the right buzzwords, but says very little, which is partly why McCain has been unable to get his teeth into him and why the candidates’ three televised debates were all so deathly dull. If Obama wins, it will be a victory for psychology and neuro-linguistic programming.

I’m staying up for the results – I’ve taken the day off work tomorrow for that very reason. I remember going to bed four years ago thinking that John Kerry had probably won and waking up to the bad dream of Bush – again! – the next morning. I’m taking nothing for granted. People lie in the opinion polls and the prospect of Obama winning in some unlikely states may have lured out the Republican vote in those areas, enough for McCain to hold them. The high turnout just about everywhere seems to be encouraging for Obama though. It has been inspiring to see people’s determination to vote, especially in bad weather, for six hours or more. If only we ever saw the same enthusiasm here in the UK, where even the last general election saw only 56% turnout and I think I was the only person out of ten in my workplace who voted.

Whoever wins, something new and historic will be happening later. We’ll either have the first black US president or the oldest first-term president, with the first woman vice-president. Sarah Palin seems to have given up on the latter option though. She has just given a speech to camera which was quite astonishing, in that she seemed to be talking about her plans for the distant future. It was obvious she doesn’t expect to be hovering around the White House from January, making sudden noises around John McCain in the hope that she can step into his shoes. She clearly thinks that McCain has had his chips. (Sorry, I had to get that line in somewhere.)

My biggest fear if Obama wins is that he will, sooner or later, be assassinated. It’s a sobering counterpoint to any excitement we may be feeling later, and victory for him is bound to be tinged with sadness anyway after the untimely death of his grandmother yesterday; a sad twist which wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a novel. She had voted already by post (for him, we assume), but she won’t get to see the end of her grandson’s campaign, which is terribly sad.

The nightmare scenario tonight is that Obama wins the popular vote but doesn’t win the presidency, which could happen. He could get more people voting for him across the country, but not win the electoral college votes needed, in which case I’ll be expecting a revolution from the American people.

The other nightmare scenario is that the queues at polling stations mean that they stay open for so long that we get no meaningful result tonight and it won’t be worth staying up. (In the states, if you’re in the queue to vote, you’re entitled to vote, no matter how long it takes.)

David Dimbleby is on BBC One. Jeremy Vine is standing by his video wall. We’re off! It’s going to be a long night. I recommend reading this excellent blog post, I Didn’t Vote For Obama Today, if you have nothing better to do.

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