The presidential primaries of 2008 are proving to be some of the most pivotal in history, setting the stage for an exciting election. The two leading Democratic candidates are breaking ground that has never even been cracked before, just by running. Chances are that the Republican candidate will be running against either a minority or a woman. This alone is a milestone not only for women and black people, but for American politics.
But is America ready to take more than a step towards breaking race and gender barriers in American politics? Will a woman or a black man be able to pull through in the long run and triumph over a white male?
Old habits die hard, and you could say that 219 years of white, male presidential candidates is a pretty old habit. This country is all about tradition, and when it comes to a political system that has been dominated by white males for over 200 years, America can only take so much change in one shot. So, people will applaud and admire Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for making it this far, but will the American public be able to muster up enough courage to break tradition and revolutionize American politics and the presidency? Maybe not.
Clinton hasn't been able to avoid a fair share (or should I say an unfair share) of attention directed towards her appearance. Comments about her wardrobe and hairstyle are not uncommon. Back in July, there were even reports dedicated to a V-neck top that Clinton wore while addressing the Senate floor on C-Span, a top that supposedly revealed cleavage. More recently, unflattering photographs of Clinton that revealed the lines and wrinkles on her face became a popular topic of conversation. Male candidates' physical appearance hardly gets this much attention. There was also the recent episode of Clinton showing a brief flicker of emotion by crying before the New Hampshire primary. Some people commended her for showing emotion, while others attacked her, fearing her "feminine" glimmer of emotion would make her appear weak and hinder her campaign. It is as if Clinton is expected to hide any sort of femininity if she wants to earn respect in a political world dominated by males. This suggests that America, as a country, doesn't feel ready to be led by a female.
Obama doesn't have it much easier. Politics have been even less receptive to black politicians than to female ones. Since 1789, there have been just five black senators, in comparison to 35 female senators. Currently, Obama is the only black senator, while Clinton is one of 16 female senators. People have expressed fear that if elected, there may be attempts on Obama's life, solely because he is black. Just the fact that people have expressed that fear says it all - America still has some way to go in the battle against racism.
As unfortunate as it is, 2008 may have brought the step, but probably not the leap, for man (and woman) kind. How I wish to be proven wrong.