Years ago, a friend of mine was thrilled that Walter Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate; without question, my friend planned to vote for the duo and based it solely on the fact that she was eager to see history being made. I agreed that it would be fantastic to witness a woman grasping such a prestigious position, but with the caveat that I was looking forward to learning more about what the Mondale-Ferraro ticket would mean for the country. That's when a heated discussion ensued. My friend couldn't believe that I wouldn't simply vote to put a woman in office for the sheer precedent. Again, I thought it fantastic that we women were making inroads, but still didn't see why that should supersede what was better for the country. Well, it eventually became a moot point, since Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush knocked out the competition, and in turn maintained the status quo.
Now, all these years later, there is the possibility of witnessing the first female or person of color becoming the President of the United States. That said, I continue to feel that it's more about what's better for the country instead of simply wanting to see history being made. Unfortunately, though, like my aforementioned friend, there will be many who base their decisions on surface impressions only. These people will go to the booth to vote for the candidate who came across as personable with a winning smile, or because they invoke the name of God each time a microphone is placed in front of his or her mouth; however, for these voters, it won't be about policy and democracy. For them, it's about something a lot more shallow.
Senator Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying, "But I'm not running because I'm a woman; I'm running because I think I'm the best qualified person."
I'm not sure if anyone thought, Oh, Senator Clinton is running for president because she's a woman, since it's a rather foolish assertion. Actually, Clinton probably would have been wiser to say something along the lines, "I'm not running for president because I enjoyed my stint in the White House and want to live there again."
Has Barack Obama said, "I'm not running because I'm a man of color?" Or Mitt Romney: "I'm not running because I'm a Mormon." Maybe they have, but I don't recall any such declarations. One would hope these candidates are running because they believe they can correct some of the wrongs the present president has done--which will be enormous shoes to fill--be they loafers or heels.
Male, female, black or white, the person best qualified for the job will be someone who respects the Constitution of the United States and will be able to pull our country out of its present nightmare. This person needs to understand that he or she must work for and answer to Americans. Yet, Americans have a huge responsibility, as well, and should realize that this isn't a contest a la American Idol, but something far more serious. Therefore, we must discard the sound bites and winning smiles, and bring a deep knowledge of the candidates with us when we walk into the voting booth in November 2008. The question is, will we be able to get past the facade to see what is really at stake? That depends not only on our willingness to educate ourselves, but also on the Fourth Estate taking responsibility in giving us information that matters while refusing to run with sensationalist dribble that serves no useful purpose except to fill their corporate-owned coffers. We certainly have our work cut out for us.