Although we would all like to think that America is ready to turn over a new political leaf and elect either a woman or a black president, it may still not be the right time. This is not to say that the country as a whole hasn’t made dramatic strides forward as far as equality in politics is concerned, because one only has to look at the numbers.
Although we would all like to think that America is ready to turn over a new political leaf and elect either a woman or a black president, it may still not be the right time. This is not to say that the country as a whole hasn’t made dramatic strides forward as far as equality in politics is concerned, because one only has to look at the numbers. The U.S. Senate has the most female senators in its history, with 16. We also have six members of the House and Senate who are either Hispanic or black.
Our country is steadily becoming more comfortable with candidates who don’t quite fit the classic white-Christian-male description. With all of this progress, it would seem an ideal time to move in a bold new direction in the presidential election. Unfortunately, we may still not be ready.
The two candidates drawing the most attention in these astoundingly early days of the campaign are the senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Both candidates are qualified, and both have generated tremendously loyal groups of supporters. Obama first stepped onto the national stage during the 2004 campaign, when he gave a heartfelt speech about his belief in the American dream during the DNC convention. He has inspired praise as an outsider in Washington, and is someone who will be more indebted to the will of the people than to the set-in-stone ways of the government. Clinton is, of course, the powerful wife of a popular former president, and someone who has accomplished much on her own as a senator.
The media has focused so much on these two candidates that not much time has been given to any others. While not getting as much focus, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is a formidable opponent in the race for the White House. Not only was he a candidate for vice president in 2004, but he also has a strong record on many issues that matter to Democrats, especially the war in Iraq. It may be an unexpected benefit for Edwards that so much attention is on the other two candidates, especially on their recent public bickering.
The attention that Obama and Clinton are getting, and the question of whether we are indeed ready to nominate such a dramatically different candidate, also brings to mind the Howard Dean blowout in 2004. Dean rose to prominence based on several factors, not the least of which was a very vocal opposition to the ongoing war in Iraq. In the early days of the campaign, many Democrats seemed eager to take a radical new step forward. Not only did he raise record amounts of money in the new field of internet fundraising, but he was also very much the anti-Bush.
Then things took a sudden turn for the worse. The media viciously ripped Dean to shreds, focusing on a misrepresented microphone feed of him screaming at a rally. This wasn’t the only thing that took him down. Mainstream Democrats seemed to question whether he was too radical to win the election against Bush. Bringing to mind George McGovern’s landslide loss to a seemingly defeatable Richard Nixon in 1972, there were fears that the American public may not have been ready for such a bold move during a war. Radical as they may have been, McGovern and Dean were still the typical rich white male.
History may repeat itself somewhat with Obama and Clinton, and the support we are seeing now may be eroded as the actual election approaches. There have been ludicrous calls in the media asking if Obama is “black enough,” which may be just a front for wondering if he is capable of winning as a non-white man. It’s amazing we haven’t heard anyone ask if Hillary is “female enough.”
John Edwards is definitely a formidable candidate. Unlike Hillary, who seems to have trouble really apologizing for her vote authorizing the war, Edwards has publicly acknowledged that he was misled and made the wrong decision. Obama has come out strongly against the war, but this still may not be enough. There is a distinct chance that the DNC may end up choosing Edwards as the election draws near to help guarantee a Democratic win in 2008.
We may very well see a brave new direction in American politics in the upcoming election. Although early polls showed support for Obama and Clinton, recently American opinion seems to be slowly changing. In several national polls taken Feb. 22-24, John Edwards’ support is nearing that of the other two candidates. It will be interesting to see how everything turns out, and if the public is really ready to make such a different choice in who will lead the country.
Our ever-dwindling international support would be given a boost if we could show that we have come far in the fight against bigotry and sexism. As Americans, we could be truly proud, regardless of our political party, that color and sex don’t matter and that leadership and qualifications do. We may wake up Nov. 3, 2008, headed towards a future embracing equality, but it may still be too hard for some people. John Edwards, despite being very well qualified for the job, may end up getting the nomination because he is yet another Christian white guy, and therefore he is safe. Here’s hoping we can make the leap ahead, and prove that it is safe to move away from what’s comfortable.