Poll: Americans OK With Minority Leadership

This story was written by Drew Harwell, Independent Florida Alligator
The United States presidency, an office run by white men for more than 200 years, may soon be run by anyone but.

With candidate John Edwards withdrawn from the race, the upcoming Democratic nomination is sure to make history.

Either of the top Democratic candidates - Barack Obama, a black senator from Illinois, and Hillary Clinton, a female senator from New York - would establish a new precedent for the White House, which up until now has been solely run by white men.

Sharon Austin, a UF associate professor in political science, said she was surprised by Obama's recent increase in support.

"It does show progression," Austin said. "It shows people are able to look beyond color."

Clinton's accomplishments in her candidacy have also been as unexpected as they are unconventional.

Retired UF political science professor Margaret Conway said Clinton's primary wins have been a sign that females in America are increasing in influence and confidence.

"The whole role of women in society has changed," she said.

The country's views on minority leadership have changed significantly in the last 20 years. A nationwide Gallup Poll found that 93 percent of people surveyed in December 2007 would vote for a black president, compared to 79 percent in 1987. Again in December 2007, 86 percent of people surveyed said they would vote a woman into the White House, a increase from 82 percent in 1987.

But the candidates have faced their share of bias.

Despite the strong points of her candidacy, Clinton must still deal with what some critics believe is her weakest point: her gender.

In early January, male hecklers were removed from a New Hampshire auditorium after interrupting the former first lady's speech with chants of "Iron my shirt."

Obama has had his loyalty questioned numerous times because of his Kenyan father and years in an Indonesian religious school.

Some, including President Bush and his former adviser Karl Rove, have labeled Obama "articulate" - as if they expected something different from the Harvard graduate.

Still, Austin believes Clinton and Obama's progress represents the most recent step toward equality for the nation's commander in chief, and that one day soon an election confined to a single race and gender will be a thing of the past.

"Inevitably," Austin said, "it will be a case where a black candidate and a woman candidate won't be so much of a novelty."

* 1964 Margaret Chase Smith ran as a Republican and was the first woman to run on a major party ticket.* 1976 Ellen McCormack ran as a Democrat and won 22 convention votes.* 1988 Patricia S. Schroeder ran as a Democrat but dropped out before the primaries because she did not have enough money.* 2004 Carol Moseley Braun was the first black U.S. Senator and ran as a Democrat.* 1972 Shirley Chisholm ran as an unbought and unbossed Democratic candidate.* 1988 Jesse Jackson, who also ran in 1984, lost the nomination to Michael Dukakis in the Democratic primary race.* 1996 and 2000 Alan Keyes, whose name was also on the 2008 primary ballot, ran as a Republican.* 2004 Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, ran as a Democrat.
© 2008 Independent Florida Alligator via U-WIRE
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