Politics & Policy

The Final Hours

Reaching across the aisle has no meaning if there's no one on the other side.

It is hard to imagine that “undecideds,” like restless phantoms with unfinished business, still haunt these final hours.

What can they be waiting for? An epiphany? Some final bit of information to tip the scale? A hidden corpse, an illegitimate child, a beloved aunt living in public housing?

Aha! As October surprises go, the very late-breaking (alleged) discovery that Barack Obama’s aunt lives in a disabled-access apartment in South Boston is weak tea. According to the Times of London, one Zeituni Onyango — a woman whose walls are plastered with Obama photos — is “Auntie Zeituni” in Obama’s book, Dreams From My Father.

#ad#Whether the story is true is still unknown, but it didn’t take long for the right-wing blogosphere to embrace it. How delicious for them, if true, that her accommodations are not up to the standards to which her nephew has become accustomed. There’s also an errant “Uncle Omar” around some place, though details are murky.

What tangled webs entwine America’s family tree.

Companion to this news is a “red diaper baby” story in American Thinker about Obama’s early training as a communist at his mother’s knee.

Both are being circulated as post-narratives to Obama’s chosen one, but neither is likely to change many minds. Too many Woodstock boomers grew up to become conservatives for the diaper story to gain traction. And few can profess to having bought condos for their less-well-off extended family members.

Moving on. What else don’t we know, and how much does it matter to the undecideds, who represent about eight percent of the voting public? If they tuned in to Obama’s Wednesday night infomercial, they were greeted by a man more Reaganesque than Reagan. Calm, soothing, and reassuring, he presented real-people stories and real-people solutions with the voice and demeanor of Mr. Rogers. One kept expecting him to trade his shoes and jacket for sneakers and a dye-free sweater.

It was Gee Whiz meets Cheez Whiz. But it was also likely effective. In the midst of Halloween season, there was nothing scary about That One.

So what are these zombies of the voting booth really waiting for? Something they won’t find: The perfect choice. It doesn’t exist. The clear path is dappled with doubt. The telling clue is buried in the hearts of Col. Mustard, who worries about Iraq and taxes under Obama, and Miss Scarlet, who can’t get past McCain’s age and the winking wonderwoman of Wasilla.

A friend’s late-night call cast light on the undecided’s milieu. She was filling out her ballot at home and had made every choice but one. The presidential ticket.

“I just can’t quite bring myself to do it. I hate Sarah Palin. Help me out here.”

I laughed. I refilled my glass. And why not? Life in these United States, as Reader’s Digest used to say, isn’t perfect, but neither is it Somalia.

Here’s what I told her. Make two lists — one of tangibles (war, taxes, health care) and one of intangibles (to be discussed) — assign a value (1-5) to each, and take out your calculator. Discount race unless it really matters, in which case, shred your ballot.

If McCain gets the highest score, then pray he inherited his mother’s longevity gene. If Obama is your man, then otherwise vote all Republican.

As even Democrats should do, lest one party control both Congress and the executive branch. That absolute power corrupts absolutely is a dictum that needs no defense. That both parties are equally corruptible is a monument to understatement. And gridlock, though we profess to hate it, is sometimes preferable to the alternatives.

Come Tuesday, the Democrats could strengthen their grip in Congress, even securing a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate. Even many of those enamored of the intangibles (hope, change, the end of race in identity politics, Jesse Jackson’s permanent retirement) don’t want to see a world designed exclusively by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Reaching across the aisle — the persistent promise of this election season — has no meaning if there’s no one on the other side.

Four years ago, Obama famously described his vision of America as neither liberal nor conservative, neither black, white, Latin nor Asian.

“There’s the United States of America,” he said. “We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”

Should he win on Tuesday, let’s hope he meant it.

© 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

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