Presidential Potential
July 28, 2004 7:36 PM   Subscribe

after yesterday's speech, recent discussions (mefi included) have focused on the potential of illinois' barack obama and the idea that he may, in the near future, sit in the oval office.

which gets me to thinking: what's more realistic/ which will happen first in the united states: a minority president or a woman president? [more...]

...i wonder too if people think there would be a distinction made among minorities themselves: whether an asian- american would have a more "difficult" time being considered for such a role than an african/ black- american, etc.
posted by ronv to Law & Government (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've heard that most likely, the first anything different will be a conservative white Republican woman (a la Libby Dole). I think it's likely if for no other reason that Democratic women tend to be painted as harpies in the media, and as polarizing figures, while Republican women never are. I think a Hispanic man may happen before either a woman or an African-American.
posted by amberglow at 7:42 PM on July 28, 2004

My analysis is that we're likely to see a minority president first. The reason is that, while the mind of the typical American voter is not entirely unclouded by racist and sexist stereotypes/prejudice, it is easier for a ethnic-minority candidate to largely neutralize those stereotypes.

Looking at the stereotyped view of blacks and hispanics, they are seen as poorly educated, violent, criminal, and as burdens on society by virtue of their chronic underemployment. Further, many minority politicians are seen as being narrowly focused on their constituencies (Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, for example, are widely seen as having done little of relevance outside the black community, a perception which doomed both their candidacies).

It seems to me that the right candidate could make most of these stereotypes moot. Given a candidate who's experienced, educated, eloquent, and scandal-free, none of these stereotypes really applies. Colin Powell, for example, could have potentially been a very strong general election candidate, had he been ideologically well-positioned enough to get the republican nomination in the first place. This could also be true for Obama, after he spends some time in the Senate bulking up his resume, and assuming that he doesn't somehow screw up.

For women, however, the situation is somewhat more difficult. The stereotypes applied to women are not nearly as negative, but neither are they are easily neutralized. A woman running for office has to deal with the assumption that she'd lack the 'balls,' that hard-edged 'manly' strength, to effectively serve as the CinC in times of crisis - a quality that is difficult to prove with experience or diplomas. Simultaneously, she'd have to be feminine and motherly enough for Americans to be comfortable with. This is a very difficult balancing act to pull off, which is why I don't foresee a female president for this country in the next decade or so, Hillary notwithstanding.

It's late, I'm tired, excuse the clumsy logic and poor sentence structure. Please.
posted by kickingtheground at 10:16 PM on July 28, 2004 [21 favorites]

It depends on the candidate. Whichever individual distinguishs themself enough first will do it. Whether it's Hillary or Barack or Colin now or someone else down the road it won't be the result of an agenda to make it happen. It will be the wheat rising above the chaff.
posted by vito90 at 11:07 PM on July 28, 2004

If it weren't for the fact that she's rumored to be leaving Washington in 2005 (possibly to run for office, so it could still happen yet), I'd half-seriously submit a two-for-one candidate: Condi Rice. Five bucks says Cheney won't serve out his second term as Veep, either because of his health problems or because the GOP needs an heir apparent.

(Condi vs. Obama in 2012! Woo!)

But I do think electing an ethnic/racial/religious minority man will be easier and more likely to happen than electing a woman. While there are many more female voters in the US (10 million, I think?), it's unknown whether they would really vote as a bloc. Women are, frankly, catty about other women. And that's before you even get to the uncomfortable Freudian mother-issues having a women in charge would pose for a lot of male voters, a lot of it subconscious but not all.

I pity the first woman to run as a major party Presidential nominee. Every damn thing she does will be ripped apart to show why it's different/not different/just received differently than what a male candidate would have to put up with.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:20 PM on July 28, 2004

The end of the world comes before either of 'em.
posted by Witty at 2:22 AM on July 29, 2004

as I pointed out in the other Obama thread, in the Blue (ObamaFilter?),

re President Obama: I think it's wishful thinking, actually. I'm quite sure it'll be easier to see a white woman be elected President first, and she'll probably be a Republican, a Thatcher / Liddy Dole type, a white Condi Rice without the WMD shameful lies. the first African American President? he'll be no (Clarence Thomas-like) Republican simply because he just couldn't win the nomination, all those nice GOP Southerners would vote for the other guy in the primary, no matter who the other guy is. so yes, the first African American President will be a Democrat, but I see more a DLC, New Democrat guy getting elected. Obama -- very unfortunate name aside -- just sounds too liberal. even if he was white.
posted by matteo at 3:51 AM on July 29, 2004

GOP Southerner here. I'd vote for Colin Powell in a heartbeat, and would be very sympathetic to a Condi Rice candidacy. If Condi was running against Hillary I would certainly be Condi all the way. What little red book of fairy tales does matteo get his ideas about America from? Skin color is nothing any more, politics is everything.
posted by jfuller at 4:33 AM on July 29, 2004

ITA with vito90. The unspoken assumption here is that all other things about the candidate that would matter to the electorate are equal. Will Patty Murray be elected before O.J. Simpson? Yes. Will Bareck Obama be elected before Courtney Love? Yes. Will Condi Rice be elected before Manny Ramirez? I wish it were otherwise, but yes.

It's more interesting that the Democratic Party last night nominated the first white male married to an African-American woman.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:20 AM on July 29, 2004

What little red book of fairy tales does matteo get his ideas about America from?

from the jingo, McCarthyite bullshit US right-wingers constantly spew on MeFi?
no, seriously: I am happy that you say you'd vote for pro-choice, pro-affirmative-action Colin Powell in a GOP Georgia primary. I remain convinced that this puts in you in a, ahem, minority of GOP voters, especially below the Mason-Dixon line.
one doesn't want to drag the ghost of Willie Horton out of the GOP's graveyard, let me just say that after all, war hero McCain wasn't hawkish enough* for you guys four years ago
* Thousands of South Carolina homes received letters, ostensibly sent from a Baptist church in Kentucky, condemning "John McCain's Fag Army.")

oh, and my favorite:

The National Right to Life Committee issued a mass mailing warning that McCain "voted repeatedly to use tax dollars for experiments that use body parts from aborted babies." On the front of the leaflet was a photograph of a baby with the words, "This little guy wants you to vote for George W. Bush."

not to mention the fatal blow, the smear that McCain had fathered a black kid out of wedlock. that miscegenation thing still seems to have legs, doesn't it? how weird.

but I'm happy to learn from you that in Jfuller Reality the Dixie GOP is pro-affirmative action, pro-choice, and eager to vote for black candidates (after all, every election cycle we see the avalanche of African American Republican governors and Senators and Congressmen elected by Southern Republicans)

If Condi was running against Hillary I would certainly be Condi all the way

ah, good reflex: Hillary! catch! woof woof

who mentioned Hillary? anyway mrs Clinton will be hardly running in a GOP primary against Rice, don't worry about her. but if you really think that Rice would kick Jebby Bush's lily-white ass in, say, the Mississippi 2008 GOP primary, hey, I have a swampy piece of land I can sell you for cheap (OK, this is a low blow and uncalled for -- what can you do, I'm an outside agitator)

or, may I suggest you dress up as a black guy and start driving around LA, if you get lost just wait for the nice LAPD gentlemen to stop you and give you directions
posted by matteo at 6:55 AM on July 29, 2004

Trans-gendered McCain vs Obama in 2012?
posted by bonehead at 7:52 AM on July 29, 2004

Trans-gendered Ditka v. an army of tiny Obamas?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:28 AM on July 29, 2004

Ditka. And the Bearsh.
posted by bonehead at 9:01 AM on July 29, 2004

This is not even a question: a black man will be elected before a woman. I personally believe that institutional mysoginy is at least as prevalent as structural racism, if not more so. Remember the backlash when Hillary tried her hand at legislation as first lady?

I think people are comfortable with women as a part of the decision making process, in the legsilative brach, as that kinda reminds people of a marriage. Having a woman as the ultimate athority and having to follow orders from her is another matter entirely. I think few would have a problem with a black Commander-in-Chief: Colin Powell is living proof of that. But I think many would balk at having a woman as the supreme commander of the most powerful military force in the world.

As a point of reference for non-white-men in high exececutive positions: Bush's cabinet has 3 women and 4 minorities.

In either case, it is nice that we are now talking about an actual horse race: Condi, Colin, Hillary, or Obama? Not ten years ago we could only discuss this in the most vaguely hypothetical way.
posted by ChasFile at 9:15 AM on July 29, 2004

"It's more interesting that the Democratic Party last night nominated the first white male married to an African-American woman."

HUH? Please explain.

Funny, we were talking about this the other night at a dinner party. I think either one will have to be from the GOP. Because, like was stated above, any woman or minority from the Dems would be touted as "weak" and "too interested in their kind" by the GOP. Whereas a GOP candidate, for some reason, wouldn't be labeled as such as much.

But I still think it will be a cold day in hell before anyone but a rich, rich, rich, rich, lilly-white, Christian/Catholic MAN gets the nod.
posted by aacheson at 9:22 AM on July 29, 2004

The real question is openly atheist or openly gay?

(aacheson, Theresa was born in and grew up in Mozambique, Africa.)
posted by callmejay at 9:26 AM on July 29, 2004

ChasFile makes a good point.
Hillary was crucified as an "uppity" woman because she *gasp* acually was an intellectual equal with her husband, had *gasp* ideas and opinions of her own, and tried to have a hand in getting stuff done. Everyone was FREAKING out that Bill acually consulted his wife and asked for her ideas in solving problems and confronting issues. (I guarantee you if a woman were elected, her husband wouldn't be dragged through the gutter if she consulted him, or if he didn't take up "appropriate" causes like the children and education...typical first lady fare, and acually worked on things that are more "strong".)

WTF has LAURA BUSH done besides smile next to her husband? And Barbara Bush? And Jackie Kennedy? All smiling, stand-waaay-behind-their-man, all I care about is the children, don't-take-a-stand women.

And now we're seeing it again as *gasp* Teresa Heinz Kerry DARES to speak her mind. She's obviously a "loose cannon." It makes me sick.

This country can't handle strong women-a minority will probably come first. As Teresa Heinz Kerry said in her speech the other night:

"My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called “opinionated,” is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish. My only hope is that, one day soon, women—who have all earned the right to their opinions—instead of being labeled opinionated, will be called smart or well-informed, just as men are."
posted by aacheson at 9:31 AM on July 29, 2004

ChasFile, I can't imagine what you're thinking here. People aren't comfortable with a woman leader? Is this a particularly American issue, or did Margaret Thatcher never happen? It's an American thing? Not at Xerox, Lucent, H-P or any of the other U.S. companies with female CEOs. And when you say "people would balk," or "people aren't comfortable"... do you mean people with penises? Because women vote now, too, as well as serve in the armed forces, and I don't think they would balk at following the leadership of a woman.

Again, this whole discussion is senseless (not to mention inappropriate for AskMe), because the person is so much more important than the gender, skin color, etc. To rank gender or race in terms of electability just ignores way too many factors that just swamp gender and race. It's not the same level of stupid as ranking righthandedness or lefthandedness, but it's on the same continuum.

On preview: aacheson, Teresa Heinz Kerry is African-American.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:33 AM on July 29, 2004

Ah, THAT kind of African-American. Not skin color, but acually what it means...someone acually FROM Africa who lives in America.
Thanks for clarifying that.

Athiest before gay. Definitely.
posted by aacheson at 9:33 AM on July 29, 2004

This is an American issue. My god, Pakistan, the Phillipines, and India (Not exactly bastions of women's rights) have elected women. Women in power make Americans nervous. They are "bitches" and "out of control." Yes, there are a few out there... but I guarantee you that men AND women all over America are made extremely nervous by strong women. God knows what scares other women about it...maybe those strong woman make them take a good hard look at themselves and they don't like what they see.
posted by aacheson at 9:37 AM on July 29, 2004

I think you're misreading the reason for the antipathy towards Hilary. I never saw sexism there, I saw hatred of Bill, with Hilary's expanded role as First Lady making her fair game, a convenient proxy for hatred of Bill. Sure, some of that hatred included cynical misogynistic appeals, but that wasn't what motivated it, IMO.

It's interesting that the anti-Hilary fervor has really cooled off a lot now that she's on her own, politically and actually being mentioned as a future candidate. She's a serious legislator and I don't see her being a woman hurting her in that arena, either in terms of getting stuff done or in terms of electoral popularity.

On preview: Don't forget Margaret Thatcher. You may not agree with her politics, but she was as forceful a leader as any man, and in fact led her country into war in 1982. And of course Golda Meir in Israel. People are willing to elect and follow strong female leaders. As we saw in the Democratic primaries, the desire for "electability" is such a strong voter considederation that it is, ironically, the greatest barrier to a woman's or African-American's being nominated. All it will take is the first one, though, and the barrier will vanish.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:48 AM on July 29, 2004

> but I guarantee you that men AND women all over America are made extremely
> nervous by strong women.

From over here on the far Right (what passes for the far Right on mefi, anyway) I can't see this. I guarantee you if either the GOP or the Dems nominated a female candidate similar to Iron Lady Maggie Thatcher (as strong a woman as you're likely to find anywhere on planet earth) I'd fall all over myself voting for her.

I frankly expect this from the GOP sooner. After all, as ssF pointed out above, the plutocrats are quite used to female CEOs by now. I somehow imagine it's the guys with tweed jackets, bald heads and shoulder-length fringe who really get nervous around strong women--knowing, as they do, that no one ever ever ever had a sexual fantasy about being tied up and raped by someone dressed as a liberal.
posted by jfuller at 10:14 AM on July 29, 2004

Fun reading: List of Female Heads of State (20th/21st Century only)

Athiest before gay. Definitely.

I would respectfully disagree--there's quite a bit of "endowed by our Creator" and "In God We Trust" and "under God" in public US rituals and such, and it would seem odd to a lot of people to have an avowed atheist perform/mention them. And what the heck would the guy be sworn in on at his inauguration? (Not that it would bother me, mind you, but then most of the population of the US thinks I'm damned to Hell.)

A gay/lesbian President will almost certainly need to be in a longterm same-sex marriage to be palatable to the US public and show that they're "safe" and tame and not at all like those who march in the Pride Parades. But I think the Democrats will have an edge on this one. I can imagine a charismatic handsome JFK type (and his equally charming and cute husband, who stays home to take care of the kids) emerging as a political star twenty years from now.

And it's worth repeating that we've already had one queer President: Prez #15, James Buchanan, whose long-time partner, William Rufus De Vane King, had previously been someone else's Veep. (Talk about your power couples...) Alas, King died of TB before Buchanan got sworn in, so we never had an unofficial "First Gentleman", and Buchanan's niece filled in for First Lady duties. But while Buchanan's orientation was known around DC political circles--President Jackson referred to him and King as "Miss Nancy" in his letters--it's a far cry from running as an out-of-the-closet gay man or lesbian.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:41 AM on July 29, 2004

Based on the numbers, it's more likely we'll see a woman president first. In the usual source of presidents - Governors and Senators - there are currently about a dozen female and no minority governors (excluding territories) and 14 female and 3 minority (Akaka and Inouye of Hawaii and Campbell of Colorado) senators.
posted by dchase at 12:04 PM on July 29, 2004

I've always thought it slightly strange that the melting pot & vangard of progressive western democracy (after a fashion - ho ho!) has always gone with the white, christian male.

Particularly interesting is the comparison with the leaders of other countries over the years. OK there's yer Thatchers & Gandhis but also the first ever female prime minister - Sri Lanka's Sirimavo Bandaranaike - and Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan) followed by Khaleda Zia Rahman (Bangladesh) and Megawati Soekarnoputri (Indonesia) all female leaders of Muslim countries.

More info here & here.
posted by i_cola at 2:43 PM on July 29, 2004

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