If SWNID votes for Obama, it's likely to be for one reason: that his presidency could provide the impetus to break the sad dysfunctionality--to be sure, a legacy of the racism that justified slavery and Jim Crow and continues to fuel "the soft bigotry of low expectations"--that plagues a disproportionate segment of the African-American community. From the Oval Office's bully pulpit (a phrase coined by civil-rights advocate TR, of course), President Obama could enshrine the civic virtues of family stability, self-discipline and self-help like no one since Booker T. Washington and smartly combine that advocacy with targeted compensatory and corrective government action of the kind championed by W. E. B. DuBois, modulated for present realities. His speech to the NAACP is Exhibit A in making that case.
If SWNID votes against Obama, it's likely to be for one reason: we don't know what in the world he'll do in the present, unresolved struggle with Islamism. His ever-evolving position now seems to imply that he might redeploy American forces to attack Pakistan, a position whose only discernible point of contact with his now-obsolete opposition to the Iraq War is that it involves war someplace--anyplace--outside Iraq. That's an interesting idea from a man who says he also wants to improve American relations with our allies.*
How far afield Obama's position on Islamism remains, despite his recent rush to the center, is nowhere better demonstrated than in today's WSJ opinion piece by the formidable Frederick Kagan, Kimberly Kagan and Jack Keane, early advocates of the anti-insurgency "surge" strategy that has worked so brilliantly. These folks know that the heart of Al Qaida and of American interest are now not in the hinterlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan, needful of attention as those regions are, but in Iraq, where the US has shown itself able to inflict a most humiliating defeat on the Islamists, who are as handicapped by their ideology as they are driven by it.
We wish we could depend on Obama to listen to the Kagans and Keane. But we can't. Lacking both a consistent position on the war and a record by which voters can gauge his judgment, he offers no assurance that his ear would turn to the best voices. The specter of failure in the Middle East, when success is so very close, is for us too great a risk.
Obama's presidency is almost worth that risk for the benefit his influence could have over one of the most pressing and seemingly intractable problems in our Republic, a problem 400 years in the making: the problem of race.
*McCain's better on this one: don't send Americans to Pakistan, whose very presence would fuel resistance, but cooperate with tribal leaders willing to fight the Islamists while pressing with American forces in Afghanistan. The difference with Obama is substantial: both know that the mountain insurgents need attention, but McCain instinctively knows how to address the issue while Obama searches for a position that will placate the left, appear consistent with earlier statements, and not fuel the impression that he is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the pacifist left.