Media, Agency Circles Should Have Backup Plan for Obama

What Will You Do if the Unthinkable Happens?

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Barack Obama is not the president of the United States. This is a fact. Also a fact: There's a chance he might not become the president of the United States. But for those of us working in the media and living in the bluest of blue sections of this country, that's hard to remember. After all, eight out of 10 of your friends are voting for Obama. The ninth friend is a bitter Clinton holdout who'll vote for Obama come election day. And the 10th guy is going to vote for Nader but is too embarrassed to tell you.

But if there's one thing all of us should have learned from the last go-round is that big-city America is not the sum total of America. The rest of the country might follow New York and L.A. when it comes to matters of music and fashion, but not when it comes to politics. You should remember your own emotions on that Wednesday morning in November four years ago. You should remember the silence in your office, broken only by cursing and weeping. All of this for John Kerry, a candidate you didn't even really like in the first place.

But these things are easy to forget. Partly because we live in a society probably more insular (and certainly more smug) than a 500-person village tucked into a West Virginia holler. And guess who they're not voting for in that West Virgina holler. Guess who they're not voting for in communities across America. Perhaps more eye-opening, guess who they're not voting for in the suburban and rural areas of Ohio. Now, you can psychoanalyze the reasons they're not voting for Obama all day long. That might make you feel better about yourself, but it's not going to change the fact that lots and lots of people you don't know are not voting for Obama. And all those Germans aren't voting for Obama. And while they might say they're voting for Obama, all those celebrities and "youth" voters have a nasty habit of forgetting to show up at the polls to, you know, actually vote.

Which is all to say this isn't in the bag yet. I know, I know. That's almost impossible to believe. It's partly because Obama has waged a far superior campaign on all fronts. It's partly because John McCain isn't exactly igniting the soul of even his own party. Hell, when even the Wall Street Journal is giving editorial space to someone claiming McCain doesn't have a shot, it becomes very hard to believe that McCain has a shot.

But have a look at the polls. According to our big-city narrative, Obama should be ahead by about 600 points. He's not. Granted, as someone in the office has pointed out to me, Obama is an African-American first-term senator with a funny name, so that he's leading in the polls at all indicates a huge sea change in American politics. Then again, his opponent is a geriatric with a mean streak, a man who's been tagged "Bush the Second." He often looks like a dried-out mummy on TV and can't read a speech to save his life. He says things like, "We did a Google." McCain is unpopular even in his own party.

And yet they're still neck and neck in the polls. You should realize that. You should study those polls every day just as a reminder (and perhaps as a motivator). I don't want to be a downer, but I also don't want you collapsing into a state of shock in the event of a McCain victory. Maybe you should have an oxygen bag on hand and a personal flotation device. I'm of the school of thought that the president usually isn't as important as we think he is -- especially when it comes to the economy. But I'm afraid that if Obama loses, I'll wake up Wednesday morning to find that the major networks have forgotten to put stuff on the air. Marketers might call their agencies to find that no one's shown up for work. New York and L.A. might actually come to a standstill.

This might be a job for "Saturday Night Live," but I almost wonder if someone should do some public-service announcements in media offices and ad agencies, counseling employees what to do in the case of an Obama defeat. "Please do not panic. Breathe slowly. And while it is OK to cry, it is not OK to run out into the street and start breaking windows at the Gap."

Maybe it's because this has been a banner year for me in calling things wrong when it comes to politics, but I'm open to the fact that I could be wrong about the November outcome. All I'm saying is that you should be, too.