Chauncey wrote a great piece on what makes him excited and scared about the election. I’ve chosen a different approach: looking at the implications of the two possible outcomes in practical and symbolic terms. This is a recurring theme for me, as I’ve struggled with the tension between practical and symbolic politics since we started this site.
In practical terms, an Obama loss would secure at least 12 more years of Republican presidential rule, as young progressives and black people would withdraw from national electoral politics in significant numbers.
In symbolic terms, an Obama loss would torpedo the dream of a black man becoming president any time soon. If this brilliant, biracial, supposedly post-racial black politician is too black to become president, then what chance do the rest of us have?
In practical terms, an Obama loss would all but ensure that Sarah Palin and her petty, incurious, faux-populist ilk dominate national Republican politics for the next decade or so.
In symbolic terms, an Obama loss would signal that the previous generation is still calling the shots.
In practical terms, an Obama win would halt the Bush administration’s assault on the Constitution; it would prevent the Supreme Court from veering even further to the right; it would signal the immediate end to America’s bankrupt neocon cowboy foreign policy.
In symbolic terms, an Obama win would represent the acceptance of American multiculturalism on the (inter)national stage.
In practical terms, an Obama win would not have a significant, positive effect on the electorate. The Right will regroup, and due to the general unpopularity of every Congress, the Democrats in power will take the hit and the political pendulum will carry Republicans back into office in the next few election cycles.
In symbolic terms, an Obama win would suggest that Howard Dean was right: Democrats need to look at the guys with the Confederate flags on their trucks as potential allies.
In practical terms, an Obama win wouldn’t put a dent in racism, economic inequality, crime, poor education, and other problems that plague black communities.
In symbolic terms, an Obama win would relieve the psychic collective burden that renders blackness the ultimate hindrance.