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This is an historic election for many reasons, not least because many white voters are ovecoming their racism (at least for the purpose of voting). The GOP has long had the hardcore racist vote sewn up, but there are voters whose discomfort voting for a black person has given McCain an opening. That's why he's pinning his far-fetched hopes on Pennsylvania.

Both polling and the anecdotal evidence tell us the opening is rapidly closing. More and more white voters are voting with their brains and their pocketbooks. I find this nothing less than amazing.

There are numerous theories about why Obama is managing to defy racism, the most obvious being that disenchantment with the GOP is trumping all other emotions, however primal. Whatever the reason, it's clear that something historic is brewing.

Obama is running even with McCain in West Virginia, the state with the highest percentage of white working class voters, and McCain was forced to quit Michigan, symbolic birthplace of the fabled Reagan Democrats. Today the New York Times has a piece on the white working class in the heart of steel country in western Pennsylvania. In the name of "balance," it quotes a racist woman who plans to write in Hillary's name, but here is the piece's primary point:

But to walk the back streets of the Beaver River mill cities — the biggest mills were long ago shuttered — and to visit rural hamlets like Economy and Hookstown is to hear more than a few Democrats saying they intend, however reluctantly, to support their party’s standard-bearer, particularly as the world economy cracks and heaves. Many Democrats, and a few independents, wonder if Mr. McCain is too old and Ms. Palin too unsophisticated to take his place.

It's tempting to dismiss these voters as simply ignorant, to mock their discomfort voting for a black person. But if prejudice were easy to overcome it wouldn't be prejudice, and I, for one, am moved by their desire and ability to move past it. I think Obama himself would be too.

“I’m no racist, but I’m not crazy about him either,” said Mr. Piroli, 77. “I don’t know, maybe ’cause he’s black.”

He winces at himself. “We was raised and worked with the black, the Serb,” he said. “It was a regular league of nations. And the economy now, it’s terrible.”

“I’ve got to vote for him,” he said finally.

Him? “The Democrat, Obama,” Mr. Piroli replied. “I can’t be stupid.”

I can't be stupid. Truer even than he realizes.

Originally posted to david mizner on Mon Oct 27, 2008 at 09:16 AM PDT.

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