Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Black or White, Man or Woman, Christian or Cult

This morning my 11-year-old son asked me who I would vote for, if the U.S. presidential election were today, and Hillary Clinton was running against Mitt Romney. I was driving my kids to school, and we were talking about super Tuesday and the important indicators that would surface by Wednesday, in terms of America's bent toward presidential preferences.

In recent days, I have been pondering how Americans might be sorting through their options. Clearly, this race presents us with a greater array of diversity, but also with a more obvious element of risk, depending on your perspective. Many believe a man is inherently better suited to lead our country, despite race. Many believe a woman is equally up to the task, despite political party. Many believe faith is not an issue, despite a candidate's connection to a cult.

When I was 11 years old, LBJ was beginning to lose his political grip on this country, as racial strife stirred an anxious generation caught up in waging war with the North Vietnamese abroad and with each other at home. In 1966, I told my kids, America would never consider a woman or an African American as president. In 1966, Americans would never consider a Morman as president. We were still recovering from the assassination of a Catholic in the Oval Office, the assassination of a black pastor in Tennessee, and the assassination of prayer in our public schools. The term Ms. was not on the public radar screen, and blacks were not on the public short list for lead roles in movies or on television.

Today, I have an 11 year-old asking me a question that was unimaginable when I was his age.

Today, America now demonstrates its embrace of diversity, by whatever factor you can measure it. It appears there are no longer lingering stigmas in this country about race or gender. However, I have a hunch that below the surface Democrats are quietly struggling about which is a better choice: a woman, or a black man. It appears there are no longer lingering stigmas in this country about faith. However, my hunch is that Republicans are quietly struggling about which is a better choice: a Morman, a Veteran or a conservative Christian. By tomorrow we will have a better indication what road we are on as a country.

The silent reaction to my 11-year-old son's question must have lingered too long. Before I could respond, my 15-year-old son offered up his answer for me: "If that were to happen, Papa would not vote at all," he said.

I think I will wait to see if the question is premature. I hope the voter turnout is strong.