Obama Is Up, and Fans Fear That Jinxes It
In the den of his home in New Hope, Pa., a liberal Democrat sits tap-tapping at his computer.
Jon Downs works the electoral vote maps on Yahoo like a spiritualist shaking his Ouija board. He calibrates and recalibrates: Give Senator John McCain Ohio, Missouri, even Florida. But Virginia and Pennsylvania, those go to Senator Barack Obama. And Vermont, Democrats can count on Vermont, right?
Almost always, Mr. Downs, 53, ends with Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, ahead, which should please this confirmed liberal and profound Obama fan. But just as often he feels worried.
“Look, I have this sense of impending doom; we’ve had a couple of elections stolen already,” Mr. Downs said. “The only thing worse than losing is to think that you’re going to win and then lose.”
He considers that prospect and mutters, almost involuntarily, “Oh, God.”:D
To talk with left-leaning Democrats in New Hope, San Francisco or Miami Beach, to drill deep into their id, is to stand at the intersection of Liberal and High Anxiety.
Right now, more than a few are having a these-polls-are-too-good-to-be-true, we-still-could-lose-this-election moment. Their consuming and possibly over-caffeinated worry is that their prayers and nightly phone calls to undecided voters in Toledo, Ohio, notwithstanding, Mr. Obama might fall short on Election Day.
To walk on Broadway, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is to feel their pain. “Oh, God, I’m optimistic, but I can’t look at the polls,” said Patricia Kuhlman, 54, nervously tapping her Obama/Biden ’08 button. “I’m a PBS/NPR kind of person, and, O.K., I do look at some polls.”
Ms. Kuhlman shakes her head and says, “If he doesn’t get this, I’ll be crying so hard.”
A young woman, Shana Rosen, walks by. She is from Denver and said she had told her boyfriend that their love life was on hold while she sweated out Mr. Obama’s performance in Colorado. Ask Lucy Slurzberg, an Upper West Side psychotherapist, how many of her liberal patients speak of their electoral fears during their sessions, and she answers: “Oh, only about 90 percent of them.”
Certainly, national and swing state polls suggest that Democrats might allow themselves a deep breath or two. But liberals are not inclined to relax, given the circumstances of their last two defeats. Hanging chad, the Supreme Court decisions, and Florida and Ohio’s electoral problems: it is a lifetime of agita to staunch Democrats. The prospect of success now comes scented with dread.
Conservatives, it must be said, are not immune from the worry vapors. Therapists report that Republicans are hyperventilating too. “Wealthy Republicans are very anxious about taxes,” Jamie Wasserman, a psychotherapist with a practice on the Upper West Side and in Montclair, N.J., said of her patients. “They are not pretending to vote for the black man.”
And in Ohio, evangelical radio stations feature pastors praying for God to help voters ignore these “awful” polls and vote his will.
Many liberal Democrats watch MSNBC, but some say it sounds too much like comfort food. CNN serves its election coverage with a stiff little chaser of doubt for Democrats, and many liberals say CNN and NPR are their regular evening companions. If they really want to rub the sore tooth of worry, they dial over to the “Obama’s radical friend Bill Ayers” channel, otherwise known as Fox News.
“Mostly I flip between CNN and MSNBC, but I go to Fox if I want to get enraged,” Mr. Downs said.
Richard Schrader, a senior staff member for a national environmental organization, lives in Amherst, Mass., where politics start liberal and traipse left. He is fairly liberal, but his neighbors worry that he does not worry nearly enough. “They wake up, drink that pot of coffee and hit the polling Web sites,” Mr. Schrader said. “Too much good news has to be a lie.”
Recently he sat down with a friend who was sweating about Minnesota.
“Minnesota?” Mr. Schrader told his friend. “What, are you kidding me? Obama’s up 14 points there.”
The friend shook his head sadly. Take off seven points for hidden racial animus. Subtract another five for polling error. It is down to two points, and that is within the margin of error in sampling, and that could mean Mr. Obama might be behind.
“It was perversely impressive,” Mr. Schrader said.:D