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How much change do we really want?

Fri, Feb 8th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

As the number of presidential hopefuls gets smaller an interesting field of candidate's remains. Each in their own way represents a certain segment of the electorate. Left in the race is a person of African-American heritage, a woman, a Mormon, an evangelical Christian, and a senior citizen.

This represents the most demographically diverse presidential 'crop' of candidates in my lifetime and perhaps, ever. Our choices in the past, at this stage in the race, have always been white men, either middle aged or senior in years with mainstream religious affiliations.

This presidential race is far from over, but is it just possible that America has matured enough as a nation that we are ready and prepared to elect an African-American President or a woman as Commander-in-Chief? Is the religion of a candidate no longer an issue and are we ready to elect a Mormon or an evangelical Christian as President? Have we as a country overcome our fears so that race, gender or religion no longer matter in a Presidential contest? Or, instead does this diversity in candidates represent the divided nation that we may still be.

I don't think we yet know the answers to those questions. And as I listen to our media, I sense it remains timid, in fact, ill-prepared, in talking openly about whether personal prejudices rather than political differences are determining the outcome of this election.

Indeed, has the media's discussion of election results by "demographic profile" become the new code phrase for "prejudicial voting"?

For example, throughout the Super Tuesday election night, media reporters and pundits often described Obama's win of caucus states, like Minnesota, as representing the more educated and dedicated political voter; whereas wins in a primary state such as Massachusetts went to Clinton due to her strong appeal to the blue-collar voters in Boston. Only on National Public Radio did I hear mention the lingering wounds of the battle over desegregated school busing in Boston as a possible reason for the strong Clinton vote.

Let's face it, voting stereotypes abound: young folk won't vote for the old; poor whites won't vote for a black; men won't vote for a woman; and so on. The question remains whether these stereotypes are still playing out in 2008.

The polls show that Americans are largely unhappy with the direction our country is going and want change. Is our desire for change enough to overcome our history of prejudice along racial, gender and religious lines? Well, I have come up with my own test for this question and it is simply this: If we are a nation really ready for change, I foresee an Obama or Clinton presidency; if not, then I think McCain becomes president by default. Of all the candidates running, John McCain represents the least change, both demographically and politically. One may support senior citizen John McCain (confession time, I too am a senior citizen) because one believes he can bring about some kind of change and he is a good man. But if one settles on Mr. McCain because he seems "safer" than a black man, a woman, or someone of a different religion than the nation has not come as far as we think we have nor as far as we should.

Alan Lipowitz, of Peterson, is a regular Journal contributor.

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