A knock-knock joke about hope

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"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"


"Bradley, who?"

"The Bradley Effect, sucka."

"Oh, you do look familiar. You're the personification of Conventional Wisdom, aren't you? You've had a very bad year."

"Even if most of my predictions fall flat, the Bradley Effect on Election Day is still my ace-in-the-hole."

"I know. You still cling to the racist and un-American notion that white people in 2008 won't be able to bring themselves to vote for a black candidate in the privacy of the voting booth."

"You should ask former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley if it's just a notion. When he ran for governor of California in 1982, the polls had him way ahead of his white Republican opponent until Election Day, when he lost narrowly."

"So conventional wisdom is that you just can't trust white people to vote their conscience, right?"

"Bingo! White folks will tell pollsters anything to avoid looking racist. Remember Virginia's gubernatorial race in 1989?"

"Didn't Douglas Wilder, an African-American Democrat, win that race?"

"By the skin of his teeth. That's my point. He was up by nine points in every poll on Election Day. What happened?"

"I'm not suggesting that the Bradley Effect wasn't real once upon a time. I'm saying that it's passe. Even when it was a factor, it didn't always prevail. We're two decades after Gov. Wilder and almost three after Bradley."

"You're not one of those fools who believes in the myth of the color-blind voter, are you?"

"I'm a believer in the fact that times change. Conventional wisdom has had a short shelf life this election cycle. Forty years ago, large American cities began electing black mayors for the first time in history. One landmark leads to the next in a democracy. Don't you believe in progress?"

"I'm a realist. I'm here to remind you not to get your hopes too high. Human nature being what it is ..."

"Your specialty is relying on the past to guide your thinking about the present. What you know about human nature can be summed up in whatever the latest cliche is about race and politics. You're not really in touch with what's happening."

"Are you saying you believe poll numbers that have a black presidential candidate beating a white candidate will hold up on Election Day?"

"As a matter of fact, I believe the country is witnessing the Bradley Effect turned on its head."

"Really? Is it your theory that a lot of white voters simply aren't willing to admit to their friends and neighbors that they're leaning toward a black Democrat? That's a unique theory."

"Well, let's just say I'm not as comfortable speaking in generalities as you are. You talk about white folks like there really is a monolithic group behind the term."

"The entire history of this republic has made me a realist when it comes to race and political power, my friend."

"How interesting! My own sense of the nation's history makes me an optimist. I don't believe race trumps every other consideration like it used to."

"Is this the part where you break into a round of 'The Times, They Are A Changin'? This is America. The wheels of social progress turn slowly here."

"I have a knock-knock joke for you."

"I can already predict how it goes."

"Then humor me. Knock-knock."

"Who's there? Let me guess. Obama. Obama, who? The Obama Effect, right?"

"Wrong. America is knocking. Not the old, uptight America that once ignored its loftiest principles about the equality of all citizens. This time an America that isn't afraid to embrace the best things about its present and its future is knocking. It's knocking hard and persistently. Open the door or get out of the way."

"Then let it knock as much as it wants. We still have a secret ballot in this country. We'll know soon enough if I'm right or wrong."

"Yes, we will. In the meantime, we're about to enter a new chapter in our history. The era of conventional political wisdom is over."

Tony Norman can be reached at tnorman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1631.


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