Thursday, February 21, 2008

Is America Ready?

You want to know how to spot pseudo-intellectual babble? It's actually quite easy -- just wait until someone starts a sentence with "I just don't think America is a ready for a _________" in reference to the presidential election.

When the dust settles from the 2008 general election, and the pundits and academics do their post-mortem analysis, there will be an inevitable flow of "analysis" about why identity politics caused whichever major candidate to lose (with the possible exception of John Edwards).

Here are the problems with it:

(1) You're talking about an absurdly small sample size. I have no strong opinions either way about Mormons, but I voted against Mitt Romney in 2002 because I thought Shannon O'Brian was the better candidate. So I wasn't voting *against* a Mormon or *for* a woman any more than I was in 2000 when I voted for Marge Roukema, or in the 1999 primary when I cast a ballot for Anna Eshoo. I was voting for who I felt was the better candidate. Now that it's 2008 and I am repulsed by the smugness and sense of entitlement on display every day from the Clintons, I'm not supporting the female candidate. But it's not because of her gender, religion, or color. Got that?

(2) "America" is not some monolithic bloc. Remember, this isn't Prague or Warsaw during the Cold War -- we as individuals actually have varying opinions to express. Even within households, there are extremely divergent political views. So any statement about how "America" feels sounds well, like a blurk -- something hollow that gets repeated a lot. Certainly, there are individual Americans who would not vote for an individual because of race, creed, or color. But the other side of that coin has to be -- Yes, but how many individual Americans would vote for an individual because of any of those very factors?

Those last two points were obvious, and you've probably heard them before. But my biggest goal for this entry is to challenge people's use of the term "ready."

I'm not *ready* for a lot of eventualities that might befall me, but I'll adjust to them as they come.

Were Americans "ready" for a Catholic President to be elected in 1960? I have no idea, but they got one. And they adjusted to it.

Were Americans "ready" for a Jewish Vice-Presidential nominee in 2000? I have no idea, but if you look at the popular vote, many more voted for his slate than against it.

Were Californians "ready" for an Austrian immigrant movie star to be elected governor in 2003? I have no idea, but he was re-elected handily a couple years later.

Were Louisianans "ready" for a Catholic son of Punjabi immigrants to be elected governor in 2007? I have no idea, but they have one now, and that's their daily reality.

I'm not any *readier* for a President of a particular identity than I am for a boss, a sister-in-law, or a next-door neighbor of that identity. But I am an open-minded, tolerant American who would welcome that person on his or her merits and accept them in that role. And I'm far from alone on that.

No comments: