Looking at the 2008 Election

A white woman and a black man are running for president, and America can’t stop talking about it. Hilary Clinton announced her intentions to run for the nation’s highest office on January 20th, 2007. Barack Obama followed suit soon after on February 10th. But even before these announcements were made, the media was obsessed with the significance of their every success and failure. There was extensive speculation about whether Hilary Clinton could count on women or Barack Obama was guaranteed the black vote. A New York Times article titled “Right Candidates, Wrong Questions,” addressed the uselessness of such narrow-minded thoughts, saying, “It’s dumb because most Americans are smart enough to figure out that a member of a group may or may not represent its interests.” Attempting to prove they represent the liberal interests of the Democratic Party, these two high-profile candidates have already begun aggressively campaigning. But they have not as yet been able to shed the implications of their minority positions in politics. Isabelle Engelstead ’09 stated, “There is too much emphasis on the fact that a woman is running. There ought to be more focus on what she will bring to politics. People want changes in policies, not changes in genetic qualities.” Furthermore, the divisions between the parties are defined by the issues at hand, not by the race and sex of the candidates. There ought to be more focus on the differences between the Democratic and Republican candidates, instead of on the question of whether or not America is “ready” for a woman or a black man in the White House. If we are not ready now, that is a deeper problem in our society and one that deserves to be addressed outside of the election process. The presidential race is always a media frenzy filled with patriotic declarations, lively debates and constant reporting on every politically correct and incorrect comment uttered by a potential candidate. Every statement is dangerous. A single racist comment or an overly enthusiastic “scream” can ruin a person’s chances at becoming the leader of the free world. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., the Senator from Delaware and another presidential hopeful, remarked: “You’ve got the first mainstream African-American who is an articulate and bright and clean-looking guy.” The comment, first reported by The New York Observer, became the story of the day, and clouded the Senator’s reputation before he even had a chance to explain. But the public needs to stop swallowing overblown stories about candidates’ gender or race and focus instead on the deeper issues. The best reason to ignore these distracting characteristics, regardless of your political affiliation, is that you’re only shielding yourself from focusing on the important platform issues. Conservatives would be happier to see their party fail for legitimate reasons (namely, Americans don’t agree with the party’s policy), than to lose power, due to internal opinion split between two controversial candidates. America is obsessed with appearance and visual appeal, but this should not interfere with our duty to civic virtue. The candidates do not vie for the most powerful position in the world with light intentions, and we shouldn’t brush them aside or consider them on the sole basis of physical attributes. Gender and race shouldn’t provide an advantage or a disadvantage; platform ideas and political prowess are what make the President. The day that Americans stop voting for candidates on the basis of their views and positions and start judging candidates by their genes is the day that our nation has failed. For the sake of politics and the nation’s future well-being, forget that she is a woman and he has dark skin. Instead, shut your eyes, and listen to what they have to say.