There s been a crucial question hanging over the US election campaign from the very start: Would US voters be willing to elect an African-American?
There s another even uglier question about race that keeps getting raised as well, in conversations I ve had from South Carolina to central Cairo: would White Americans want to kill Barack Obama to keep him from winning?
On the eve of Tuesday s vote, we have answers to both and they are reassuring.
Most Americans clearly are prepared to consider Obama s candidacy on its merits. And not only consider it; polls suggest that most are going to vote for him Tuesday. America is on the verge of making history.
If he doesn t win, or the election is close, race may be a factor, but it won t be the only factor.
John McCain is spending the last days of the campaign criticizing Obama s tax plans; perfectly normal politics that has nothing to do with pigment.
At the same time, police say two young skinheads revealed plans to kill Obama, after a murder spree that they plotted, targeting precisely 88 African-Americans. The number is revealing. American Neo-Nazis use 88 as shorthand for HH , or Heil Hitler, because H is the 8th letter in the alphabet.
The plan was elaborate and outlandish. It was to start with a gun-store robbery and culminate in a speeding car racing to run Obama over, with both of his attackers dressed in White tuxedos and top hats.
The skinheads arrest is the third time that police have publicly announced threats against Obama. Why should that be reassuring? Because in all three cases, they say that Obama was never even remotely in danger – not even close. The two skinheads seem to be far more like troubled adolescents than assassins.
The U.S. has never had an African-American president but it s had four presidents killed in office and two wounded. Any man or woman who takes the job is in danger. Someone with enough luck and determination could still pose a very real threat to Obama and do it because of his race.
But the election campaign has unfolded without anything like that.
America isn t the sum of the marginal violent extremists in its midst.
Most Americans seem to have a very different attitude towards BarackObama. According to pollsters, they want to elect him president.
Jonathan Mann discusses poll results and political plays, providing viewers with analysis and plenty of election campaign color on CNN’s The Campaign Trail every Friday at 7.30pm and Saturday at 3pm and 9pm.