And yet when, a week from now, we reflect on the immense fact that America has elected a black president, or even if we are reflecting on the scarcely less immense fact that it has not, it will be important to remember what it feels like now - that this campaign has not fundamentally been about race at all.Okay, I don't agree that the Democrats are any less guilty of this than Republicans, but that's beside the point. The essence of his point, that there's nothing much new here, is true. This election isn't all that different.
Don't get this wrong. The Republicans are engaged in an "othering" of Obama into which race is inextricably woven. But the othering of 2008 is not something new and unique but something old and familiar. In 2004 they othered John Kerry as a rich liberal. In 2000 they othered Al Gore as a beltway geek. In the 1990s they othered Bill Clinton as a draft-dodging child of the 60s. Before that they othered Michael Dukakis, Jimmy Carter and George McGovern, each in his turn, right back to the othering of John Kennedy as a Catholic in 1960. Othering, in other words, is what Republicans - and sometimes even Democrats - do.
That is the reason why, next Tuesday, American voters face a double choice - electing a president of a race they have not previously voted for; and, at least as important on the day, electing a president from a party that, in modern times, they rarely vote in.This column should be mandatory reading for everyone in the British & Irish media and anyone who feels the urge to voice an opinion.
Look at it this way. Obama may or may not have a problem getting white Americans to vote for him. But he is doing much better than most of his recent Democratic predecessors ever managed among such voters.