We are on the precipice of electing the least-accomplished president (in terms of resume) in the 220-year history of the United States. As I have said before, Barack Obama is a man about whom we know almost nothing--but upon whom we find it easy to project our most optimistic collective aspirations. He is part philosopher king and part American Idol.

But what if we lose our nerve between now and the First Tuesday in November? What if we awake from our trance at some point during the hard-fought days of October and suddenly ask ourselves: "What in the Hell are we doing?"

Could that happen? I think so. Bill Clinton was absolutely right. Electing Obama is "rolling the dice." We know almost nothing about him other than we like him. This phenomena is not completely unprecedented in American politics—but, as I say, it is hard to think of an instance in which we (the people) have elected a lesser-known, less-experienced president than he. Of course, inexperience does not necessarily disqualify a person (it is my hunch that he would actually be okay, in a big picture, long term sense). But personal history and preparation ought to be a consideration, and it is possible that we just might get cold feet at some point.

Of course, I understand Obama-mania. I too am charmed and intrigued by the man from the Land of Lincoln.

He is tall and handsome. He is a stemwinder. He is a good family man. He appears extraordinarily virtuous. Evidently, we share the same religious orientation.

But let us be honest. Race is key to his meteoric rise to fame and political fortune. We are about to elect this most unlikely person to the highest office in the land not in spite of his race--but because of it. The election of Barack Obama would be a great point of national pride. If we as a people can elect a person of color to the highest, most cherished, and most respected of all national offices, we finally fulfill, in a demonstrably practical way, our national creed and sacred aspiration: a land of the free in which all men are created equal.

So, what is the problem? What scares me the most about Obama winning the nomination? Aside from his league-leading liberal voting record?

What if he loses?

There is a very real possibility that he will lose in the general election (on this, I am increasingly persuaded that his elevation is no sure thing). As I indicated above, when decision time comes, many Americans are going to develop legitimately serious doubts concerning this person about whom we know so little. What if he loses? What will that do to us?

There are myriad good reasons to vote for John McCain over Barack Obama. A McCain win in November would actually be the most logical choice on so many levels considering our present reality. Having said that, if Obama loses this upcoming general election to a white candidate, there will be many Americans who will believe in their heart of hearts that he lost because of his race. This will be bad for all of us. Very bad.

I am convinced that we are ready for a woman president. I am convinced that we are ready for an African American president. But I think we all owe it to ourselves to place before the electorate a person who is fully qualified and vetted. I worry that sending up an inexperienced Barack Obama as this first opportunity for most Americans to vote for a black man for president is a reckless move.

A more studied alternative? Why not let this relatively young man take his turn as understudy and emerge from a Clinton administration at fifty-four (still incredibly youthful in political years) and undeniably seasoned and better prepared to assume the most influential office in the world.

Moving so heedlessly at this point strikes me as risky cultural business. The Democratic Party seems intent on daring us to question the bona fides of this candidate. And, if we do, we all understand the racial minefield that we will face.

If Barack Obama secures the nomination, this is likely to be a very ugly election.