James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Is America ready for a [insert here] President?

Yesterday I briefly heard one of the right-wing talk radio guys discuss the Iowa caucus results. In 2004, two African-American candidates performed disastrously in Iowa, suggesting that this overwhelmingly white state was somehow not "ready" for a black President. Then Barack Obama comes and kicks but, putting the lie to that notion. The host was getting a lot of mileage on this point.

I tried to think: who were those black candidates in 2004? Then I remembered: Al Sharpton and Carol Mosely-Braun. I had to laugh. They were not credible candidates not because they were black, but because they aren't credible people. Whatever one thinks about Barack Obama's views, his style and personal and public record are such that he could persuade Iowa voters to vote for him than for far more experienced old white men like Chris Dodd and Joe Biden.

Does this suggest Iowans are prejudiced against old white men?

And now - surprise - it's dawning on some people that Hilary Clinton's campaign is in trouble not because she's a woman, but because she's Hilary Clinton.

I don't know if race or gender is still a large factor in Presidential politics. Of the two, I would posit that being a woman would be a bigger obstacle than being black.

The reason is, racism in America has no religious basis (except in some really far-out people with theories on the curse of Ham or whatever), whereas sexism does. Racism tends to be statistics-based: crime rates, education performance, etc., but is not personally directed against high-achieving blacks. In other words, a white may be anxious in some quarters of the city, and be skeptical about the grades of a black job applicant from a black school, but would be glad to have her son play for Tony Dungy or work for Colin Powell.

On the other hand, no matter how successful or smart a woman may be, a not insignificant part of the population still believes in gender roles they believe are mandated in the Bible or some other religious texts. Because the Presidency has been conflated with a pastoral role, people who wouldn't want a female pastor would probably be uncomfortable with a female President. Such voters may be small in number, but could provide the margin of defeat.

Moreover, while many whites object to the "radical" agenda of civil rights activists, they still feel sufficient guilt that they agree on principle with many of the goals of equal rights. But they have much less sympathy with the socialistic "radical feminist agenda."

That said, I think both sexism and racism continue to recede in American life. Before GW Bush, I figured the best chance we had for a female or black President would be if she or he ran as an economically conservative, socially moderate Republican - someone who wouldn't cram the "liberal agenda" down are throats Now, the Republican Party has governed so badly, it appears more people are willing to vote Democrat and take their chances.

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