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I was wrong about Obama 

This is the last BWA column before Election Day, so I hope to sort out a few of the pre-election items still on my plate.

My Bad Sometimes it's hard to admit mistakes, but this time, I'm happy to say I was wrong back in January when I wrote that Barack Obama was not electable. I obviously underestimated how much progress has been made in whites' racial attitudes, and I'm thrilled to have been mistaken. Maybe I need to start hanging out more with those young, colorblind voters who've driven much of the Obama campaign ("And I would, if their incessant text messaging wasn't so annoying," grumbled Grampa Grooms).

The polls could be deceiving -- remember, they were wrong more often than not during the primary contests -- and there's no way to measure how many voters have swallowed the bizarre tales about Obama spread by the Republican smear machine. Overall, though, things are looking good for Obama. Much has happened in the past 10 months to give him an advantage, but three things stand out.

First, voters had a chance during the debates to see Obama's intelligence and calm steadiness, and hear about those middle-class tax cuts; surveys show conclusively that the debates increased voters' "comfort level" with Obama, especially compared to voters' negative reactions to John McCain's angry tone and odd facial expressions.

Second, McCain has run an erratic, poorly executed campaign, and chose a running mate whose negative numbers rise every time she opens her mouth.

Third, and probably foremost, any lingering racial doubts in white voters' minds are being trumped by worries about the Wall Street debacle and thoughts of an impending economic depression. Moreover, there's good news for both Obama and America itself from studies of the so-called "Bradley effect" (when white voters tell pollsters they'll vote for a black candidate but vote for someone else instead). Those studies say the Bradley effect has been exaggerated in the past, and isn't likely to happen this time. In any case, Bradley would be outweighed by the foreseen increase in new, young voters and African-American voters. Again, I'm happy to have been wrong about the racial factor, but the whole thing is still nerve-wracking.

"Socialism!" McCain, Palin and their Fox/Limbaugh-ish media elves are shouting that Barack Obama is, God help us, a socialist -- the Red Menace itself! Yeah, right -- Warren Buffett is really going to support a socialist. Since Reagan, political dialogue in the United States has shifted so far to the right that conservatives now see liberals as Bolsheviks. Reality check -- here's what a truly socialist platform would look like: federal government ownership of all basic industries such as energy, transportation, steel, airlines, trains, health care, and communication, and close regulation of most private industries. Oh yes, and banks would be nationalized, kind of like George Bush is doing right now. Charges of socialism, or red-baiting, are the oldest trick in the right-wing book, and are a good indication of just how empty American conservatism's idea tank has become. Unfortunately, there's also a fair share of voters who are too ill-informed to see through the b.s.

The Real America If it's not a McCain aide making distinctions between "real Virginia" and, we suppose, fantasy Virginia, it's Palin extolling the "pro-America parts of the country," or Rep. Robin Hayes saying, "liberals hate real Americans." First of all, who the hell do these people think they are that they can dictate what it means to be a "real American" or "pro-America"? I've often felt that conservatives see the "real America" as a 1950s-ish fantasy world a la the Donna Reed Show, an America where, as in the '50s, conformity to easily predictable views and behaviors are strictly enforced. Sorry to say, but the recent spate of "real America" nonsense pretty much confirms my feeling. On a human level, you have to feel sorry for people who are that out of touch, and that uncomfortable, with modern life. On a political level, though, let 'em seethe -- conservatives' rigidity will cost them ever more dearly as the real world keeps going its own way without them.

ACORN in a nutshell In nearly every election cycle, the voter registration group ACORN catches some of its paid recruiters faking registration forms, and they throw those forms out. It happened again this time around; the forms were tossed again, but suddenly, according to the McCain campaign, ACORN is a "dangerous" group whose goal is to "commit the largest voter fraud in American history." As part of their assault, GOP attack dog Rep. Tom Feeney claimed that ACORN "has violated more Americans' civil rights to have their votes counted than any group since the KKK." (Feeney, by the way, is a four-time winner of the nonpartisan watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's "Most Corrupt Members of Congress" Award.) No evidence is ever offered to back up claims like Feeney's, but hey, we're in a campaign, who has time for evidence? It all seems odd, and McCain's charges seem particularly strange, considering that just two years ago, he was the keynote speaker at the ACORN convention, at which he praised the group and said they were "part of what makes America special." It's just pathetic. End of story.

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