Is the United States of America honestly ready to elect a woman or an African American president? Not only is that a legitimate question, but it is one that haunts a number of Democrats who feel they are being rushed into making a decision that will leave them highly vulnerable in the general election.
For decades, my party, the Republican Party, has basically nominated the next white male in line. In 2000, when there was really not an heir apparent, George W. Bush wisely assumed the mantle and was nominated and then elected. During those same decades, the Democrats would cannibalize themselves until the last man standing got the nomination.
As we approach the 2008 presidential election the parties have reversed themselves. Now it is the Republicans who have no “next-in-line” and must engage in protracted and ugly infighting until a bloodied victor emerges. While this transpires, it seems the Democrats have decided that Sen. Hillary Clinton is their “next-in-line” with Sen. Barack Obama a close second.
Shouldn’t this be good news for the Democrats? Should they not rejoice in the fact that for all intents and purposes, they have their nominee while we still have to engage in months of namecalling and mudslinging? You would think so, but a number of my Democratic friends privately tell me it’s anything but good news.
Being that the Democratic Party is many times held hostage by political correctness, my friends have no desire to publicly wonder if our nation is “mature” enough to elect a woman or an African-American. While common sense seems to indicate that it is a subject that must be addressed, the Democrats and much of the media seem to be doing all they can to ignore it. But at what cost?
A recent survey by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake indicates that it may well be at a very severe cost. The internal poll showed that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama trailing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, in 31 Democrat-held House districts. Again, that’s 31 Democrat-held House districts representing almost 20 million people.
Why? Well, could be a lot of reasons. For Hillary, it could be that even when Democrats take a moment to think that we had George H. W. Bush for four years, Bill Clinton for the next eight years, George W. Bush for the next eight years, and potentially Mrs. Clinton (with Bill coming back) for another eight years, it may be just too much. These Democrats may well think that ceding the Oval Office to just two families for almost 30 years is overkill. We may like royalty, but it needs to be across the pond.
For Mr. Obama, it may come down to something as basic as his lack of experience. Maybe these Democrats just don’t see this young senator in the White House quite yet. Or maybe, just maybe, it may be something as simple as the fact that a large number of voters are not ready to vote for a woman or a black for president.
The trick that pollsters now use to try and ascertain bias is to say to the voter, “OK, you are open-minded enough to vote for a woman or an African American. But what about your neighbor? Is he or she as open-minded as you?” Many times, the response to this question will be, “No way. I know for a fact they won’t vote for a woman or a minority.” Once the pollsters have this information, they usually subtract anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent from the number of those who say they will vote for a woman or a minority.
As this drama plays out, my Democratic friends feel that they are being painted into a deeper and deeper corner with no escape possible. They feel that they are powerless to stop a process that will see them end up with a pre-ordained nominee who will lose in the general election.
Democratic women I know openly wonder if voters can get past Hillary’s polarizing politics, her liberal mindset, her love of big government, and her desire to raise taxes. More than that, they fear that not enough American women are prepared to vote for a fellow woman.
From my side of the aisle, a number of Republicans I speak with think Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut would be the most formidable Democrat in the general election, and that he seems to be the “adult in the room.” Sadly for Mr. Dodd and fortunately for the GOP, the media and the powerbrokers behind the scenes have not anointed him as the “frontrunner.”
As we race toward the selection of our nominees, the media and the Democratic leadership may not want to speculate as to what role bias against a woman or an African-American may play in this election, but clearly a number of rank-and-file Democrats want it discussed.
More importantly, they want it addressed while they still have a chance to effect the outcome.
Douglas MacKinnon, who served as press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole and in the White House and Pentagon, is also an author.