No Counting Chickens Yet

Everyone's saying it, even Obama. Don't assume. Just a week ago, he said, "I don't like counting those chickens before they're hatched." Rachel Maddow on MSNBC has been warning us against "overconfidence." Al Gore -and he would know--told a crowd of Floridians on Friday, "Don't let anybody tell you that the election is not still up in the air. It is."

In New York City though, we're assuming Obama will win. After all, much of what's derided as "the liberal media" is based in this city; two of America's most famously liberal weeklies are produced here: The Nation, which was founded by abolitionists in 1865 and now calls itself "the flagship of the left," and the Village Voice, considered "the first alternative news weekly," which was launched out of a Greenwich Village apartment by three friends named Norman Mailer, Edwin Fancher and Dan Wolf.

I met up recently with Ed Fancher, who went on to publish the Village Voice throughout its heydey, staying on for twenty years. The Voice was very progressive during his tenure, opposing the Vietnam War and supporting the civil rights movement. So I assumed Fancher was another typical New Yorker for Obama.

Don't assume. He thinks Sarah Palin is charming. And Obama, he thinks, is going to waste tax credits on low-income people who never pay taxes anyway. "My friend Ed Koch," he told me, "used to say that I'm a democrat with common sense." That's one way to look at it.

Fancher's counterpart at The Nation, that other famous progressive weekly, is Victor Navasky; Navasky served as publisher, editor and editorial director, and now holds the title of Publisher Emeritus.

"He should be ashamed of himself," said Navasky. (Though I perceived a dry sense of humor.) "It's an odd turn that Ed has taken," he said. "The Fancher I knew never did anything idly and was a thoughtful person."

Fancher had also touched on race, a topic that has largely been left out of election discussions when critiquing the candidates. "A black president would be a wonderful thing for racial healing," Fancher said, "but not at the cost of putting someone who may not be qualified in [the White House]." Is this the same argument that's been used against Palin? A female in the White House would be a wonderful thing, I've heard it said, but not just any female.

Fancher got more provocative, saying, "If he were white he would not have been taken seriously as a candidate." I asked Navasky for his reaction. "That is a statement," he responded, "that has a partial truth attached to it and is partially silly." Navasky explained that Obama's appeal is everything about him, including "his heritage and his unique story." And his mixed race is part of that heritage and part of that unique story. It's part of what makes Obama Obama. So speculating whether Obama would be where he is politically if he were white is, Navasky said, "meaningless speculation." The point he seemed to be making was that it was an existential exercise perhaps appropriate for a philosophy class, but not for the American electorate. It's like asking, in true existential rhetoric, "If Obama were not himself, could he be who he is?"

So the assumption that every New York liberal is voting for Obama doesn't hold true. Don't assume. But what about Navasky? He's for Obama, right? Again, don't assume. "I'm an impartial journalist," he tells me. "I'm not supposed to support people." Sigh.

"But I have money on Barack Obama," he adds. "Real money. I have two meals on this."