The Black Mona Lisa
Though I had a high grade back in International Relations class (I think it was a 1.5), I don’t understand American politics as well as I should. The United States, in my view, has one of the world’s most elaborate democracies: the two-party system necessitates that one should either be a Republican or a Democrat. The popular vote doesn’t count: Presidents are elected through the Electoral College, with a very complicated delegate system.
Even though I’m not an American citizen, I follow America’s road to the Presidential elections. Now if I were an American, I would consider myself a Democrat with a liberal bias: I do believe in gay rights, I am pro-choice, I am for national healthcare, and the US troops should withdraw from Iraq to correct the budget problems brought about by the Bush Administration.
Here’s what’s interesting: with John Edwards withdrawing from the Democratic nomination, the Democrats only have two candidates to field right now. On the one hand, there’s a possible woman President in Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, there’s a possible African-American President in Barack Obama.
Now the “mature” and “fully-evolved” American democracy should ideally not bring gender or race in their politics, but there’s a first time for everything. Edith Wilson became the first de facto American woman President in 1919, when Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated. Geraldine Ferraro ran for the Vice-Presidency of the United States under Walter Mondale’s Presidential bid in 1984. And Bill Clinton, while a Caucasian, is recognized in popular culture (by author Toni Morrison) as the “first Black President.”
While we in the Philippines don’t have as much of a racial rift, we have experiences with woman Presidents in Cory Aquino and Gloria Arroyo. Back in the school paper, I came under heavy criticism for an op-ed piece entitled “Mona Lisa.” In that op-ed, which was about Dr. Ermelinda Roman assuming the Presidency of the University of the Philippines, I asked the question: “Is UP ready for a woman President?” To many who read it, it was a “sexist” question. But while there’s a “sexist” issue in Hillary Clinton, and a “racist” issue in Barack Obama, it’s important for the United States to ask if they are truly ready for the challenges that await American society if the Democrats win the Presidential elections.
American politics, in my view, is still pretty much a field for white American males. For all intents and purposes: yes, this is an engendered, racial issue. This challenges not only the conservatives, but the liberals as well.