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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Race, Gender or Integrity, Vision and Ability?

George Wenschhof

The race for President began a year ago and the mainstream media, on the most part has avoided a discussion on race or gender. Until recently, when New Mexico Governor William Richardson withdrew from the race, the Democrats had among their candidates a Woman, a African-American, and a Hispanic.

It was refreshing the reporting on the race was concentrated on the candidate's positions on the issues and not the color of their skin or which bathroom they use in the airport.

However, after Iowa, one of the reporting tidbits was the split of the women vote went to Senator Obama. After New Hampshire, it was again widely reported that the exit polls showed Senator Clinton winning the women vote over Senator Obama.

Columnist Eugene Robinson, a African-American was asked on a political discussion show covering the Iowa caucus about Senator Barack Obama's victory in Iowa. His response was how inspiring Obama's victory speech was and that it gave him goose bumps just as Robert F. Kennedy had done when he ran for President back in 1968. The discussion was on how Obama was bringing hope to many Americans and not about the color of his skin.

During 1968 and preceding years we were also inspired by Reverend Martin Luther King, a civil rights activist. In 1968 during a speech that is embedded in many of our minds, he said (and I will paraphrase this from memory) he dreamed of a time when a man was judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

For those of us that grew up in the 60's we will never forget 1968. A year that brought us so much hope and ended with so much sadness with the tragic death of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I was only fifteen when Republican Richard Nixon won the Presidential election that year, but I knew I would be signing up as a Democrat when I became eligible to register to vote.

It was disappointing to hear former Democrat President William Jefferson Clinton refer to Senator Obama's campaign as a "fairy tail" in speeches he gave supporting his wife prior to the New Hampshire primary.

As expected, the African-American press and and the internet has been abuzz about this since Bill Clinton uttered those words. This led to Bill Clinton appearing on a talk show with Reverend Al Sharpton explaining he was talking about Senator Obama's positions on the issues and not making any reference on the Senator's ability to lead.

Today in another attempt at damage control, Black Entertainment Television (BET) Founder Robert L. Johnson came out with support for Senator Clinton and questioning Senator Obama's past. Read more here from The Huffington Post:

Minorities and women will play an important role in determining the outcome of the next two Democratic primaries as well as on who becomes the next President of the United States. Nevada has a forty per cent minority population and the African-American vote in South Carolina is pivotal for a candidate.

The issues we face as Americans are many ranging from the war in Iraq, foreign policy, health care, immigration, education, energy and the economy, to name a few.

Let's hope that forty years later, after the election in 1968, the question of race or gender does not become the focus in this presidential election. Instead, let us focus on a candidate's integrity, their vision, and their ability to lead our nation forward in the twenty-first century.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If we really did focus on a candidate's integrity, vision, and ability to lead, then Clinton, Obama and Edwards would have been sent home long ago.