The irrelevance of civil rights

Mark Steel is cacking himself at the thought that Obama might lose. The vision of President McCain freezes Steel with fear:

I know all the commentators are saying Obama's already won but I findmyself scouring the internet for reassuring polls, and there'll be an article from Nevada quoting a truck driver that's supporting McCain, and I'm like a hypochondriac that's discovered a lump, frozen with fear and convinced this means the Republicans will win and reintroduce slavery and make it illegal for any creature to evolve.

Maybe we should all be cacking ourselves like the frozen Steel. The polls certainly are tightening with the two latest suggesting an Obama lead of only 3% in the general election. Not that Steel is particularly excited by an Obama Presidency. The British satirist doesn't expect much of a guy who, he says, is in cahoots with Wall Street, in favor of bombing Pakistan and shy of challenging corporate greed. The tragedy of an Obama loss, according to Steel, would lie in the defeat of his millions of supporters. It's the war and race which, Steel believes, has given the Obama campaign its remarkable momentum:

If it wasn't for the civil rights campaign and the movement against the Iraq war, Obama's campaign couldn't have taken off. So for Obama to win would be an inspiration to all those who supported those values, and a humiliating defeat for all those who opposed them, even if Obama himself may well betray those ideas.

Maybe. But one of the most memorable aspects of the campaign is the irrelevance of civil rights as a political issue in the election. It never came up in the debates, both candidates have side-stepped the issue at every opportunity, and it's hard to see how an Obama presidency will have an concrete impact on civil rights.  The fact that Obama is half black and that he will win 99% of the black vote is purely symbolic. Civil rights has become nothing more than an inspirational issue. And that, I suspect, is why white America is about to elect the first black President in the country's history.