Nothing Won Yet

Amid encouraging recent poll numbers, the Washington Post points out some obstacles to an Obama victory in the general election on Nov. 4.

At the heart of the Obama campaign’s strategy is a national effort to increase registration and turnout among the millions of Democratic-inclined Americans who have not been voting, particularly younger people and African Americans. The push began during the primaries but expanded this month to a nationwide registration drive led by 3,000 volunteers dispatched around the country.

Gaining greater African American support could well put Obama over the top in states where Democrats have come close in the past two elections, and could also help him retain the big swing states of Pennsylvania and Michigan.

There is no guarantee that African Americans will register to vote or, even if registered, would turn out to vote on election day. I covered (in the margins) the bitterly racial mayoral rematch between David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani in 1993 as a reporter for the New York Daily News.

I can offer anecdotal evidence: The fear that blacks felt of a Giuliani mayoralty (which were later borne out) was palpable on election night. But many of the black Harlem residents that I interviewed that election night, despite seemingly knowing what was at stake, did not bother showing up to vote.

The Obama candidacy is an opportunity for Americans to make a choice. It is also an opportunity for black Americans to make history. Sen. Obama bet his whole candidacy on democracy from the bottom up. The challenge is not just for well-meaning whites to vote for the clearly superior candidate in this election. The challenge is also to African Americans.

Or will they prove Obama wrong?