It is panic in the streets just below here in the liberal corner of New England. Not since Neo’s mythic journey into the unconscious has a woman in a red dress caused such a glitch in the Matrix. In the end, it is a red state/blue state thing, and the red dress is having a catalytic effect.

With “denunciations mounting,” a law professor at UC Davis writes in the Los Angeles Times that it is time voters had the right to split their tickets, although it doesn’t seem possible yet that Sarah Palin is so great a threat to the Republic as FDR’s enemies saw him to be when they rigged the system to set term limits, or when they prevented Alexander Hamilton from becoming executive by outlawing the foreign-born. Like a writer censured, exiled or blacklisted, she must find it flattering.
And back east here at MIT there is a big conference to get rid of the Electoral System, an attempt at each and every time they try for the blue states of the east — NY East — and the west — NY West — to disenfranchise the red states of the heartland in the middle. But the heartland has found its champion. As Gerald F. Seib of The Wall Street Journal writes: “She has star power. And the bottom line is this: On Nov. 5, she will be either vice president-elect or the best-known young figure in a Republican Party that will be angry, disenchanted with its existing leadership and probably ready to rebuild around a conservative core that loves her. Either way, she is and figures to remain the biggest fund-raiser in her party, which is a sure way to win friends and allies. In short, the excellent adventure of Sarah Palin will continue.”
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We are at a major turning of events, no doubt, but it is still in the churning phase. As predicted (by Dick Morris), the polls are beginning to flatten out as voting day approaches. An AP poll since Oct. 15 (after the first phase of the crash) has Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43. But Obama has not only lost his big lead, he has also lost that terrific smile that first attracted the general run of us to him. At times he appears now on the verge of grim.

It was a mistake to randomly suggest that Colin Powell might find a place in his administration. The horde appreciated it at first, but those who opposed the war in Iraq should question his judgment. Powell was a key enabler and patsy to Cheney/Rove/Wolfowitz and Co. and to some important degree the invasion hinged on Powell’s endorsement. And it was a “feeling” rather than a “thinking” administrative decision on Obama’s part and provides a clue to how he would make decisions in the Oval Office; the way university committees and benevolent associations like the Walter Annenberg Foundation make decisions and appointments. After Powell’s disgraceful performance at the U.N., in which he presented false evidence for WMDs in Iraq, for which his life’s work will unfortunately be remembered, the chance of him serving in any other administration, Democratic or Republican, would hover around zero. Now comes the endorsement of Scott McClellan, Bush’s former press secretary who was not brave when he needed to be brave but only later when the book contract opened up, whose nature is neither hot nor cold; a simple expedient and man without a country.

And that nice elderly lady who said she’s been waiting all her life for this — a black president — sort of touched the heart in a mawkish way at first, till she went on to say that an Obama victory would be turning the White House into the Black House. The phrasing was repeated with élan and enthusiasm by a well-known and distinguished Princeton professor on “The News Hour” the other night and Gwen Ifill quickly cut him off. It is a bitter perspective and one from which creativity rarely rises through.

I spoke briefly to Obama up here early on and felt the original charge that awakened his personality was positive and creative, and I am sure of it. And this is not what he thought he meant to people at all, and it is no help. But that is what he is getting now and we are seeing apprehension: Do those displaced and out-of-time entrenched in the university who channel delusion and nihilism from generations past and those on the street who harbor vengeance see Obama as their agent, their Revenge Demon, their messiah? Is he becoming an avenging angel to turncoat and coward and whole voting blocs and strata of people that he doesn’t really know very well and he probably wouldn’t like if he did?

Or is Obama now experiencing the Howard Dean Syndrome? The sudden uh-oh moment of awakening that this is no longer a liberal parlor amusement sprung on Oprah that might have, with luck, yielded a new job or a least a book, but now he could actually become president?

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A long stab: Having been in the region at the same time he was and knowing more or less the same people, I have a feeling that what Obama learned at Columbia was more attuned to the economic and demographic issues of the 1840s, reprised again for the 1930s and modeled and adapted yet again to different times — to our times — but it never really fit and it didn’t work. And if he is elected in 2008, these ideas will not solve the financial crisis that is the only real issue as of last month, and Mitt Romney will be elected to clean the stables in 2012.

But if McCain is elected he will eventually take the advice of practical, capable and competent friends like Rob Portman and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And people will like Arnold, who yesterday gave Sarah Palin a strong endorsement.

They liked Arnold 30 years ago when he first arrived in the movies, it is said, because Arnold brought the “strong man” archetype to movies and to the culture when we as a country had gotten weak and confused and celebrated our own failures and rhapsodized our disgrace and rationalized our defeats. We found compensation and equilibrium in the presence and image of a man stunningly strong and beautiful in the body on the screen; a real-life superman. “We need these archetypes,” said a well-known movie critic of the period. Take a look: We have become weak and confused again.


Visit Mr. Quigley's website at http://quigleyblog.blogspot.com.