10 June 2008

Keep the change

Now Barack Obama has won the Democratic Party nomination for President, there is much idle speculation about which "first" will be realised in November - first Black President or Oldest President. The USA seems keen to congratulate itself on its apparent lack of bigotry for picking a candidate for its highest office from an ethnic minority. But is this such a breakthrough? After all, white Americans would be fairly comfortable with the sight of a black man pleading for their support behind a sign with the word "change" on it, albeit usually at the side of the road rather than a political platform.

Never mind that black politicians have been winning elections for a generation in the US, this is deemed to be some sort of breakthrough moment. Obama is clearly an extraordinary man in many ways, but he also conforms to a certain template of Presidential candidate: overachieving, driven, ambitious and articulate, with a great background story with which to burnish the myth of the Presidency. A template whose main exception seems to be the present incumbent to the Office.

If it's not Obama, then someone else will break the ceiling before long. But how long until America is confident enough to vote for a candidate who claims no religious affiliation? I think they'll have elected a score of black presidents before that particular "first" ever happens.

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