The end of this presidential campaign is giving me fits. During the day, I believe Barack Obama might just win this thing. At night, I'm scared sleepless that he might not.
See, I'm a passive-aggressive pessimist when it comes to the fulfillment of the American dream. I can put up a good front, but deep-down inside, I'm quaking in my boots. I'm used to being disappointed. I don't expect things to work out, even when it appears the country's promises seem to be just around the corner. Hope, in fact, makes my ebony-hued skin itch.
I'm most comfortable when things go poorly. That way I can't be disappointed. I'm used to the near-misses of history, the wait-till-next-time expectations and the you're-not-yet-ready dismissals of social progress.
So until fairly recently, like a couple weeks, days—or was it hours—ago, I refused to allow myself to believe Obama had a credible shot. But by nearly all measurable accounts, the brother has this sucker in the bag.
And it's driving me crazy.
The leading polls say he's up anywhere from a single point to double digits. Nowhere have I read a respected poll that puts Republican presidential nominee John McCain out front. In fact, all I read or hear are folks saying Obama is going to win.
Early voting suggests the long lines in North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Florida and—heart be still—Georgia are mostly newly registered Democrats waiting to cast a ballot for Obama. When I went to cast my vote in Cleveland this week, I was stunned to have to wait in line behind do-ragged and pants-sagging hip-hoppers who came out to vote for the first time in their lives.
Maybe Charlie Cook, the respected political analyst at the National Journal, is right. He wrote in a recent column that the race has "the feel of concrete setting," with the Democrat from Illinois comfortably ahead. "How can an election that was so volatile now suddenly seem to be so inevitable?" Cook wrote.
Well, hold on there, hoss. This thing ain't over, so don't go getting all cocky and start believing the hype. With less than two weeks to go, anything can happen. It could rain buckets all over America on Nov.4 and suppress turnout. All those excited kids might change their minds and decide to watch the vote on television instead of going out to the polls. Those nasty robocalls might spur a previously undiscovered vein of angry KKK members to march in robed regalia on Election Day.
Can you say October surprise? After all, this still is America, where miracles happen and dreams are deferred daily.
Apparently the deep thinkers inside the Obama campaign are working to keep their feelings in check. According to Newsweek's Howard Fineman, who recently visited Obama's national campaign headquarters in Chicago, campaign staffers act as if something will go wrong in the campaign's closing days. Greeting his visit was an inspirational message to fire up the troops: "TWO SHORT WEEKS. TWO LITTLE WORDS: NEW HAMPSHIRE."
Remembering the painful lesson of front-runners during the Democratic primaries when Sen. Hillary Clinton rebounded in the Granite State after losing the Iowa caucuses, Obama warned staffers and supporters not to get too full of themselves by feasting on media reports. "I've been in these positions before where we were favored and the press starts getting carried away, and we end up getting spanked," Obama told supporters at a recent rally.
So taking my cue from Mr. Cool himself, I'm struggling to keep my soaring expectations in check. Until the talking heads on television call a victory, I ain't claiming it. In politics, nothing's over till it's over. And even then, there might be hanging chads and recounts and lawsuits and arguments before the Supreme Court.
I just want it to be over, so I can fall asleep at night.
Sam Fulwood III is a regular contributor to The Root.