With two weeks left until the US election, you would think that every possible angle of how voters think have been discussed, but there is one thing I haven't heard anyone talk about: Racism. You may think it has been discussed a lot, but only in terms of how racists won't vote for Obama, not why they would.
The US in may ways is a very segregated and racist country, yet if there is one thing no one wants to be called its a racist. You may call an American all kinds of names, but nothing hits home like being called a racist.
Many white people In the US spend considerable effort to work on not being perceived as racists, especially if they are. Like having the token friends to invite to your parties so that no one will create an awkward moment when they comment that everyone is white. Its especially important to behave correctly when there are black people around. Bringing up any discussion of race relations is a mine field no one wants to end up in. Dont mention the war. And if ever you find your self in a situation where you must talk about race be sure to come well prepared, with names of black friends, your favorite black entertainers and athletes and a story of how once I saw a Taylor Perry movie and liked it.
As most people fundamentally think that their vote doesn't affect the outcome in any meaningful way (and they are often right) who they vote for can become a statement of who they themselves want to be rather then who they really want to be in the white house. They may want McCain to be president, but they want to be the kind of guy who has no problem voting for the black guy.
Any white person could see the writing on the wall in 2008: If Obama would win it was going to be historical and everyone who didn't vote for him was going to look behind the times and racist, and If he lost there was going to be riots and talk about a racist conspiracy, and then you sure don't want to be the one who stood in the way of first black president. Being able to say "I voted for Obama" become a great replacement for "Many of my friends are black", not just to convince other but to convince yourself you a not a racist.
So why does this matter now? Well all the people who felt the need to prove to themselves and others that they aren't racists by voting for Obama, no longer have that to prove. In fact voting against him may even make their case stronger. By voting both for and against the same black guy you sort of prove that race has nothing to do with your choice. Its the ultimate I'm-not-a-racist defense. It also has some of the "you had your chance now, so stop whining" that racists likes to complain about along with affirmative action and black history month.
My guess is that Obama will loose a few percentage points in this election by no longer getting the I-need-to-prove-that-I-can-vote-for-the-black-guy vote. Will it be enough to loose him the election? Time will tell.