Friday, May 09, 2008

The October Surprise

The October Surprise meaning the American political jargon which describes a news event with the potential to influence the outcome of a presidential election. It is so called because Election Day in the U.S. is the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, and events shortly before the election have greater potential to swing votes. Remember these?

• Humphrey & Nixon: 1968; then President Johnson assured that the war would be over by election time – with the war obviously continuing many people became disenfranchised with the Democratic nominee Humphrey – as history dictates Nixon won.

• Then in 1972 Nixon again when his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger stated that “peace was at hand” a month before the election – Nixon won again.

• 1980: Carter v. Reagan – it was released that the Carter administration was preparing a massive military invasion of Iran for rescuing the hostages in order to help him get reelected. Subsequent allegations surfaced against Ronald Reagan alleging that his team had impeded the hostage release to negate the potential boost to the Carter campaign. This October Surprise has led to several books detailing all the purported mishandling of the hostage crisis.

• 1992: Bush v. Clinton -- Just four days before the vote that year, Ronald Reagan's defense secretary Caspar Weinberger was implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal. Though he claims to have been opposed to the sale on principle, Weinberger participated in the transfer of United States’ missiles to Iran, and was later indicted on several felony charges of lying to the Iran-Contra independent counsel during its investigation. The relevance of the situation helped stop a late Bush surge in the polls.

• 2000: Bush v. Gore -- Days before the November 7 election, Carl Cameron of Fox News, working with the local Fox affiliate in Maine, unearthed an old report that Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush had been arrested for drunk driving in that state in 1976, a report which Bush himself confirmed in a press conference moments after it was revealed.

• 2004: Bush v. Kerry -- On October 29, the Arabic news agency Al Jazeera aired a video of Osama bin Laden. In a speech that justifies and takes responsibility for the actions of September 11th, bin Laden calls out the Bush administration and the American position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Your security does not lie in the hands of Kerry, Bush, or al-Qaeda," Osama claimed; "Your security is in your own hands." This is believed to have helped President Bush's campaign as it thrust the War on Terrorism back into the public eye. There is debate as to whether bin Laden was aware of the effect the video would have on the elections; the "Bush bounce" from the video did not surprise most outside observers of the 2004 election.

Election ’08 will have a 3 prong October Surprise if Barack Obama is nominated by the Democratic party.

• 1st: It will become widespread knowledge that during the primaries many conservative voters crossed party lines en masse to influence the November election. Knowing that the scuttlebutt for the last couple of years has been the election of Hillary Clinton to the American presidency; this would become the most influential way of stopping her by voting for the lesser candidate in order to push his numbers up; also it would create an overwhelming rift in the democratic party – disparity is too often difficult to heal.

• The 2nd prong will be the Freshman senator from Illinois’ “record” and the realization that the has played hookey so many times while campaigning for the presidency that his “experience” and “readiness” is indeed lacking. For a man to run on his “record” without having one is an incredible thing. I call this prong the “Where’s the beef?” prong. Where is the substance in Obama’s speeches? He is filled with eloquent rhetoric, and can stimulate a crowd but beyond the sound bites where is his “beef”? Again I point to one avenue concerning his “promise” to raise the salaries of teachers. In this country we have an anti-intellectual current and while we can publicly agree that we need good education for our kids we as a whole do not support our schools or the needs of our educational systems. This past spring how many school referendums were shot down and by those same people “concerned” with the nature of our children’s education? If we can not raise monies to maintain the infrastructure (the buildings) of our school systems how are we ever going to raise funds to pay our teachers? (Following the Maslow premise that having safe and dependable school buildings is first on our list of needs.) I think of my very conservative brother-in-law who commented on Obama’s rhetoric of teachers getting paid what they deserve: “He’s going to lower their pay?” This sentiment is not far fetched as you speak in any mixed grouping of ideologies the comment will readily come up on how teachers are over paid for their work. Again I ask Barack Obama where is the substance? How are you going to meet the promise you made to raise teachers’ salaries? How will you determine which teachers meet this pay increase: merit pay? Standardized test results? NCLB? How? How? How?

• But now we come to the 3rd prong of our October Surprise: as incredulous as it sounds – we this sum total of far flung immigrants from all reaches of the world are quite profoundly a racist bunch. The biggest October Surprise will be when this whole of America realizes that Obama is indeed a black man. As was represented in many of the state primaries and corresponding polls it was discovered that when asked point blank the whole of Americans will “say” they are not racist and that race is not a concern for the presidency but in the privacy of the voting booth racism raised its ugly head. And is racism prevalent in our nation? I have many black friends who will not even drive in a local suburb commonly referred as “Whitefolks Bay” even by its residents. It is a sad statement but this ethnocentric populace will vote according to their comfort zones; after all as we have seen time and time again it is not about the issues but rather the popularity of the rhetoric.

Can Obama’s rhetoric get past the “race card”? I try to be optimistic but I am too much of a realist. Which is too bad as John McCain deserves to win on the content of his character rather than the color of his skin.

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