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The race to the White House

By Chin Jin - posted Tuesday, 5 February 2008

With a big win in South Carolina and endorsements from Democratic heavyweights like Teddy Kennedy and 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, Senator Barack Obama has regained great momentum over Senator Hillary Clinton. He goes into today’s "Super Tuesday" primaries with a good chance of becoming the Democrat's presidential nominee.

Looking at the history of the USA, European settlement began in 1607 from Britain. African slaves arrived later, but not in significant numbers until the 1700s. However, immigrants remained overwhelmingly European. Since the United States of America was established, after the victory over the British in the War of Independence, this country has elected nothing but Caucasian males from the first President George Washington to the incumbent George W.Bush.

There are two occurrences of father and son US presidents being elected: the Bushes and Adamses. At present there is a strong suggestion of family dynasties. Bush was followed by Bill Clinton, then George W.Bush. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, that will complete the dynastic picture. Considering the democratic vitality of the country, it seems odd that the choices should be limited to two families. But that remains to be seen.


The 9-11 terrorist attacks gave George W.Bush one more term of the presidency in many analysts' eyes. Hillary Clinton understood the advantages and disadvantages and she was cool-headed in not running for the 2004 presidential elections, while John Kerry wasted time and energy launching a presidential campaign which he had no hope of winning.

By withdrawing from this year’s race, John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, said he was making way for history. “It's time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path.” For the first time in America's 220 years of presidential elections, a major party will nominate either an African American man or a woman.

But how likely is it that either will be elected president?

The last foray by a woman into presidential politics was the nomination of Geraldine Ferraro, again by the Democrats, for Vice President. The election was a disaster for the party as Ronald Reagan was re-elected in an historic landslide, though the extent to which this can be blamed on Ferraro's gender is in doubt. There has been no real test of the America's receptivity to a woman as leader.

Hillary Clinton is providing that test. She is seen as the strongest in the Democratic field when it comes to security and defense - two areas a female leader might be seen to be vulnerable. And she has capitalised on her partnership with the most successful Democratic President in recent history Bill Clinton and her former role as a First Lady, in which she was very involved in the work of the Administration.

It will be a long time before another female candidate comes to the task with as much experience and preparation. She is ready to lead "on day one", as she likes to say. The Obama push aside, she has succeeded in making the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton dynastic cycle a likely reality.


But will Obama's sweeping victory in South Carolina propel him to victories in the rest of the 40 or so states? I don't think so. The high population of Americans of African ancestry in South Carolina greatly contributed to Obama's victory. The victory displayed emotions and an electrified enthusiasm of sports fans that reminded me of watching a football game. What sports fans are concerned about is whether their team wins or loses. The skills and performance of the team are lesser considerations.

The total population of the US is about 300 million, while the African American population comprises less than 15 per cent. I wonder if Obama's overwhelming victory in South Carolina may result in a backlash from other ethnic groups. The US is a highly civilised society, attempting to overcome past historical wrongs. Racism may not exist in the law in the United States, but it persists in people's hearts. It will show itself when people cast their votes.

Either a female or an African American becoming US president would be the turning of a new page of history of male Caucasians' dominance.

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About the Author

Dr Chin Jin is a maverick, activist, campaigner, essayist, freelancer, researcher and organizer with the vision to foresee a new post-Chinese Communist regime era that will present more cooperatively, more constructively and more appropriately to the Asia Pacific region and even the world.

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