Expectation

Six weeks before the election Bill Maher asked Chris Rock, “What do you think about the fact that the polls say that seven in 10 Black Americans now expect Obama to win, which is a big difference from the way this campaign started. When he first ran for president, he actually did not have that kind of support, not nearly, in the polls and the reason we were told was that Blacks did not want to be disappointed?”

I don’t usually pay much attention to pundits, but Bill Maher, although a knee-jerk liberal if there ever was one, sometimes has something thoughtful to say. That time he had a goofy question about what Chris Rock thought about polls of Black Americans on their perceptions of Obama’s chances of winning. I like Chris Rock because he’s smart and he makes me laugh, and what he thinks about Black people’s perceptions, though probably funny, is definitely meaningless. What interests me about this query is Maher’s diction, coincidentally the most crucial aspect of a poll.

He intimated that surveys near the start of Obama’s campaign indicated that few Black people in the United States said they expected Obama to win. I’m not surprised. After nearly 400 years of experience here, I’d guess a lot of Black people didn’t have much in the way of optimism regarding the political system or white racism, especially since so many Black people can read. That may be different now that Obama is the President-elect.

Nearly hidden in Maher’s question is a premise that’s at least as important as anything Maher or Rock have ever said and that I think of as a pillar of new age thought. The premise was that positive “expectation” is “support” and as such is presumably of some value in achieving a goal. That’s important.

The idea that thought is real and can make a difference in the same way that contributions of money and effort do strikes me as fairly revolutionary. I don’t think it would’ve occurred to any talking head 20 years ago that Black people expecting Jesse Jackson to win the Presidency was a sign of anything but delusion.

Maher’s perhaps unconscious assumption that Black Americans’ feelings about Barack Obama and about the outcome of his campaign constituted support is additionally interesting to me because Maher is avowedly antireligious and actually seems antispiritual, too, in that he—like much of mainstream media—seems to denigrate anything that’s not limited to the obviously physical.

Maher simply may think that people wouldn’t support a candidate they didn’t expect to win. Nah. He couldn’t think that, could he?

I think Maher is on the money this time, perhaps accidentally. Thought does matter, and that’s why the new agers won, no matter what Barack Obama does as President. His win was indicative of more than having a lot of money to spend, although most people are so poorly educated that more money usually means more votes. There’s something else going on, in addition to spending lots of money, that’s far more important than Barack Obama. The freaks are on the move.
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Posted Saturday, November 29th, 2008 under expectation, Obama, Uncategorized.

One comment so far

  1. Oliver Steinberg says:

    The freaks may be “on the move.” But where will we end up? I turned on the television set for football game background noise, and heard a commercial for a new ABC show: “The heroes who protect us—coming soon—HOMELAND SECURITY, a new series!”

    Senator Obama’s election as President reminds me in some ways of Jesse Ventura’s election as Governor of Minnesota back in 1998.

    It is an impressive demonstration of what for lack of a better term can be called “people power.” But the system—what we used to call “the establishment”—has tremendous recuperative powers of its own.

    I know this isn’t the main point in your column, but I thought your final wording invited a rejoinder.

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