Will Americans support Obama as they did FDR?

By midday Wednesday I had received dozens of celebratory emails from friends and readers, all recounting their great joy the previous night as the media declared Obama the winner in the presidential election. Some explained away their unembarrassed, emotive tears as the charismatic, popularly-knighted president-elect gave his victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago. Moving letters, many of them, to a truly moving feat achieved against incalculable odds by a deserving human being, first; and a man of color, second.

History was being made – I was reminded time and again – with the election of our soon-to-be 44th president. But just as history was being made, a different reality was sadly becoming evident; a reality often dismissed and seldom discussed: Racism.

Thursday morning I received a digital copy of Al-Sahafa, Ohio’s principal periodical (print and online) for the Middle Eastern community, edited and published by a friend, Fatina Salaheddine. What caught my eye, given that the newspaper was published one day after Election Day, was an editorial litany written by my friend that touched on my own rationality for acknowledging the racism in this election, whether hidden or overt.

She reflects (Editor’s Thoughts) on the Obama-Biden vs. McCain-Palin campaign…

“What if things were switched around? Think about it… Would the country’s collective point of view be different? How much does racism influence our opinions? Ponder some of the following:

“What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a [six-month-old] infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

“What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review, while Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class [894 of 899 at USNA]?

“What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

“What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?

“What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

“What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

“What if Cindy McCain [had] graduated from Harvard?

“What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Five were the United States senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the largest Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

“What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker, while Obama couldn’t read from a teleprompter?

“What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

“What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many occasions, a serious anger management problem?

“What if Michelle Obama’s family had made their money from beer distribution?

“What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?”

Some of us could probably add other what-ifs to Ms. Salaheddine’s list by switching other virtues and vices from one candidate to the other; but the idea, the gist of our proposition, is quite clear. Had John McCain – even holding on to his health, age and ideological persuasion – possessed the brilliant mind, education, temperament and moral/ethical acumen we see in Obama, is there any doubt he would have garnered most of the 538 electoral votes and possibly well over 80 percent of the popular vote?

And had Obama possessed two or three of those “attributes” received from McCain, would he have not sunk midstream in the Primaries, laughingly judged unfit? “

Why is it, then, that President-elect Obama received just 360 electoral votes and only 53 percent of the popular vote – barely 6 points more than Sen. McCain? This election, unlike others in the past, had more to do with the sorry state of the nation than with any conservative or liberal ideology. No, ideology was not that important this time around; not with America in shambles; a genocidal maniac conducting two wars of choice; and an economy fast-stepping towards certain depression, one looming to be with us for several years. A depression brought forth by uncontrolled Wall Street thievery nurtured by a rapacious Bush administration and a consenting Fed headed by Alan Greenspan.

Nineteen presidential elections ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected by a nation then submerged in an economic depression that lingered for a decade… until World War II. But the people stood behind their charismatic leader with hope and resolve, and out of despair emerged great social and economic reform. That was change, true change! Will Obama be afforded the same hope and resolve by Americans to institute change as FDR was, or will we be unreasonably expecting him “to deliver” from day one?

Let’s be real… have we stopped and taken a look at the spectacular mess Obama is inheriting from George W. Bush? Americans’ understanding and patience on this road to change, one which will prove extremely difficult, will determine the true character of the people… and whether racism, significant collective racism, continues alive and well in this land of ours.