A week out from the election, the surfacing of yet another plot against Obama underscores the central danger that haunts this race. Colin Powell is said to have declined to run in 1996 in large part because of his wife’s fears that a black presidential candidate would be an irresistible target; Obama has the added burden of knowing that the opposition party is inflaming its supporters with rhetoric branding him a traitor/terrorist. But any would-be assassins who get inspired listening to Palin pray to God to somehow save us from the Democrats are amateurs by definition. Doesn’t mean they couldn’t succeed—but the skinhead fuckwits who comprised this latest plot probably wouldn’t have been able to carry out a successful robbery of a 7-11, let alone getting weapons anywhere near Barack Obama.
The real question at this point is whether there’s a professional plot in the works. This is a tough one to analyze, because it opens the gates of what pundits are pleased to call Conspiracy Theory, and as such encourages dogmatic (and unprovable) statements like No Way in Hell Could That Shit Happen in the U.S. of A. (despite it happening everywhere else throughout recorded history). The correct stance, of course, is one of watchful agnosticism, particularly because the men who rule this country have proven themselves to be capable of pretty much anything—and the problem they face now isn’t that Obama’s black, or that he’s socialist, or not Christian enough; it’s simply that he would disrupt a hold on power which they had every reason to believe would endure indefinitely. Backed by a never-ending war and a spurious legal framework that guaranteed the total supremacy of executive power, those who occupied the White House could look forward to a permanent GOP majority sustained by the endless invoking of patriotism during elections even as Republican operatives worked behind the scenes to rig them. Hold a few elections under those terms, and eventually elections become votes in name only.
But Obama threatens to torpedo all those calculations, because it’s tough to rig elections when the other candidate is several points ahead, and is racking up huge numbers in the Electoral College. It’s certainly not impossible, though it would require that the media indulge in cognitive dissonance on a scale that would make the 2004 exit polls/actual “results” dichotomy look positively tame. The prediction of race riots if McCain wins is potentially part of the propaganda meme here; in the event of a poll-defying McCain victory, the already-alerted police and military will do their best to convince angry citizen-mobs to do their duty and (as Anne Applebaum so idiotically said back in 2004) “accept the verdict.” In so doing they would be helped by right-wing brownshirts convinced that it’s really the Democrats who were trying to steal the election all along.
But this kind of scenario is touch and go, and could totally fall apart if Obama gains enough in the polls to get him into realigning election/landslide territory. A catastrophic event prior to the election is in some ways even crazier, but can’t be ruled out, because it at least has the advantage of justifying a martial law under which the election could be safely managed. The most likely course of events at this point is probably that nothing happens: that the disarray we’re seeing right now on the right is genuine, and total, and precludes any extra-constitutional measures beyond an attempt to steal the vote. Meaning it will all probably come down to whether Democratic turnout overwhelms crookedness at the polls.
Nonetheless, if I were Obama, I’d be keeping a pretty close eye on my Secret Service detail these days, since standing down the bodyguards is a standard part of any serious attempt to eliminate a target. I’d also make damn sure of my campaign aircraft. Six years ago yesterday Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota (and arch-nemesis of the Bush White House) died in a highly suspicious crash that allowed his Senate seat to pass into the hands of the GOP in the election one week later. Obama is the only 08 presidential candidate to have experienced an aircraft incident, and one of his rallies was the site of the only reported Secret Service/security breakdown that’s occurred thus far. These are probably coincidences, but this is a year we really don’t need them.