I had a dream about Barack Obama the other night. No, no, not that kind of dream -- I should be so lucky. In my dream, Mr and Mrs Obama came to our house for a fund-raising cocktail party. Because, in my dreams, I’m a highly influential member of the local community (despite or perhaps because of my charming foreign accent).
Actually, that’s not so improbable: two summers ago, our street party was crashed by Ned Lamont, who was the leading contender to take down Senator Joe Lieberman - you remember him, the conservative Democrat and one-time would-be presidential candidate (as the Daily Show put it at the time, “Lieberman: for people who think George W. Bush isn’t Jewish enough”).
Trailed by camera crews from BBC America and the 24/7 politics channel C-Span, there was Ned Lamont on our street, shaking hands and kissing babies, including my own freshly minted one. I wished the man luck and said I was sorry I couldn’t vote for him as I was not a citizen.
According to politics-geeks friends who were watching the live coverage on C-Span (I know, sad!), as Lamont turned away, he shrugged and said “She must be French or something...”
Bien-sûr, c’est difficile to be a foreigner in this country sometimes. Which is why it might be nice to have a President who had not only been overseas, but lived overseas. Imagine that!
Anyway, in my dreams, the Obamas were charming company. At first. And then they started to wear on me. Every topic of conversation, every stray comment I made, was pounced on to make a persuasive argument about how Barack would do better for us than any of the other candidates.
“Yep, it’s lovely, the boys like playing out there, and last year we planted tomatoes, and peas, and beans, and corn…”
“Well let me tell you right there, agriculture is the heart of America, and corn-based ethanol is a viable alternative energy source blah blah blah...” And off he’d go.
In my dream, he was the candidate I would love to have a beer with, because maybe it would make him just shut up for a minute.
In the dream I eventually stamped my feet and yelled “GUYS! We can’t vote for you! So let’s just, you know, chat?”
Of course my subconscious was not reflecting on the man himself - I'm sure he knows how and when to turn it off - as much as on the curious all-encompassing intensity of the US electoral system. The candidate becomes a 24/7 campaigning machine, to the point where, if the machine momentarily grinds to a halt, or churns out an unexpected answer, or goes all teary for a minute, it’s big news.
Hillary hasn’t attended any of my nocturnal fundraisers yet, so I can’t report on her imaginary cocktail party manners. I get the sense her husband would suck all the oxygen out of the room -- but if you could only get her by herself, she’d own the place.
Curiously, she was just around the corner as I began typing this, kissing babies at the Yale Child Study Center. What a missed opportunity!
Anyway, all the talk comes to a head tomorrow, US time, on Super Tuesday. There will be a polling booth in the foyer of my big boy’s school. And a bunch of parents will be taking advantage of hungry voters by holding a bake sale to raise money for the PTO. As far as I can make out, it’s not actually illegal (as it is in New Zealand) to campaign on the day, which poses the quandary: do I ice the cupcakes with OBAMA or CLINTON?
I’m bummed that I can’t vote, but a little relieved too, because how would you choose between two such different but brilliant and inspiring candidates? And both so symbolically weighted as well - each in the running to be a real first for this country. Rebecca Traister eloquently captures the dilemma in this piece at Salon.
Meanwhile, supporters of both are adamant that only their candidate could beat the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain. But who knows? Obama can presumably be counted on to get out the youth vote, but we counted on that last time, and look what happened.
By the time Tuesday evening rolls around, American time, we’ll have a clearer sense of who’ll be on the slate in November. For the moment, though, I’m savouring the feeling of optimism and hope that hovers over the whole business. I like this sense of antici......pation. It feels very different from the Tuesday four years ago when events conspired to re-elect the cowboy president. Change is in the air, no matter who comes out ahead tomorrow, and that can only be a good thing.