Are We Ready for a Woman, Hispanic or Gay President?
The notion of a Black president seemed to some a joke – until it wasn't
Maybe you were on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that frigid, hopeful day Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States. Remember how you felt? How anything seemed possible? How America seemed destined for greatness? How much pride you felt? It's a feeling none of us will soon forget. Forty-three presidents, 43 old, white men. So much for diversity, eh Rick Santorum?
It may be in our lifetime, or maybe another’s, that we'll see a president from one of the following groups emerge. In some cases, they may be closer to the office of the presidency than we think.
The case for a female president:
Many speculated Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton might join the Democratic ticket in 2012, replacing current Vice President Joe Biden, who turns 70 this year. The rationale? President Obama needs to reinvigorate his party’s enthusiasm amid a down economy and high unemployment, a challenge for any incumbent, let alone, well, you know, the first Black president. These rumors were quelled somewhat by the Obama Administration’s announcement that Vice President Biden, a foreign policy stalwart, would lead the next phase of the U.S.-China policy efforts.
And yet, the prospect of a Clinton run at the nation’s highest office in 2016 has never been more intriguing. She’d have the two biggest stars the Democratic Party has ever seen -- her husband and her boss -- behind her. And, if we’re being honest, she ran into something of a juggernaut in 2008 against Obama.
While considerations of gender played a role in the 2008 Democratic Primary, Clinton’s name recognition, intelligence and vast experience as a New York state senator and then secretary of state would make her an extremely intriguing factor in 2016. Lest we forget, Clinton was ahead in almost every major poll as late as November 2007. Indeed, the major component that defined the historic, game-changing rise of Barack Obama wasn't so much his undressing of Sen. John McCain in a popular vote, but rather his unseating of the Clinton political machine.
But is America ready for a Muslim or Mormon president?
The perception versus the reality when it comes to the religion of presidential candidates has long been a point of contention in our nation’s history. Perhaps most notably, John F. Kennedy’s runs for the Massachusetts senate and the Democratic nomination for president in 1960 were both thought to be threatened by his being a devout Catholic (some Americans wondered if his allegiance to the Pope would supersede that of the American people -- or even interfere with policy abroad). Neither impeded his progress to the White House nor was a great factor during his short time in office before his assassination.
If front-runner Mitt Romney earns the Republican party’s nomination, he will be the first Mormon candidate from a major party to run for president. By and large, the Mormon church has fared well, distancing itself from many of its outdated but well-known customs and beliefs, i.e., Black people being cursed, polygamy, etc. For the most part, Romney’s work is done in that department, so much so, he can simply tout his electability.
The Muslim conundrum is far more nuanced than the Mormon one. History may look back on his years in office and call President Obama America’s First Muslim president, much in the way Toni Morrison said that Bill Clinton was the First Black president. This will have more to do with Obama’s eloquent insistence that Americans differentiate extremist Islamic organizations from the actual religion, and less with the sickening percentage of Americans who actually believe that Obama is Muslim. As long as extremist organizations pose a threat to national security, a potential Muslim candidate’s work is cut out for them -- and extremist ignorance is mostly to blame.
What about a Mexican-American president?
In his HBO standup special “Killin’ Em Softly,” a clairvoyant Dave Chappelle joked that the first black president had better watch out:
“I’d be the first black president, I don’t think that nobody would really hurt me. I’m sure somebody would wanna hurt me, but I don’t think they’d touch me … ‘cause my vice president will be Mexican for a little insurance.
“You can shoot me if you want, but you’re just going to open the border up.”
Chappelle’s satire is really smart and wrought with irony: Only a racist, idiotic bigot who’d want to harm the first Black president could believe such an immigration policy would occur.
The apprehensiveness to elect first- or second-generation Americans to public office underlines either the sensitive nature of immigration in America -- or the stupidity of a chosen few.
Will a gay man or woman ever been elected president?
Now we open up the discussion to our readers: Do you think we’ll ever see a gay man or woman run for president? Why or why not?