It is the season of 'primaries' in the United States. Since I'm a registered Democrat, I'm concerned only with the choices my party has placed before me.
Two primaries have already taken place. The one in Iowa was a travesty of democracy, as the word is generally understood. It was a 'caucus' in which a minuscule portion of registered Democrats managed to push off the card Senators Christopher Dodd and Joseph Biden--the two most 'respected' and experienced candidates among the Democrats--thus denying the rest of the country any chance to vote for either of them.
The person who is reportedly most feared by Washington lobbyists, John Edward, and the candidate with the most thoughtful and best spelled out agenda for the future, Dennis Kucinich, are still hanging in. But the pundits of Washington and New York have repeatedly declared them as having no chance. The pundits are only concerned with a candidate's chances to win, not what he or she has actually done or cogently promises to do. Popularity polls and bookmakers' odds are what you're most likely to hear on TV and radio. Turn on the prime-time news report, you'll find more care given to comparing the candidates' TV political ads than the medical insurance plans that some of them have actually put forward.
As for the liberal pundits, i.e. those who register and vote Democrat, what seems to matter the most is that the two most 'popular' among the Democrats have surged forth as expected. The winners of the popularity contest are Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. While the former is now serving her second term in the Senate, the latter is still in his first. They share only one thing. Both are anxious to be a 'first': one the first woman in the White House, the other the first African-American to have that address. If the candidates are anxious, their respective supporters are almost delirious with dreams of becoming the 'first' to elect the 'first' of their choice.
America's domestic politics has turned into 'identity' politics, at least for those who consider themselves liberal and vote Democrat. The world might expect the liberal citizens of the 'world's most powerful nation' to choose their next leader sensibly and with caution, but it is not going to happen. So far as the Democrats are concerned, 'Identity' has trumped 'Issues' in this election.
It does not matter to the American liberal that the world has already seen quite a few women in highest positions of power. To name only the most prominent: Indira Gandhi (India), Margaret Thatcher (U.K.), Sirimavo Bandranaike (Sri Lanka), Shaikh Hasina (Bangladesh), Imelda Marcos (Philippines), Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan), and Tansu Penbe Ciller (Turkey). They came and went. Some did what was good, a few quite the opposite. Their being a woman made not the slightest difference to the people who elected them, and who then had to bear with what followed.
As for having a 'man of colour' leading his nation, forgive me for pointing out that the world has seen them from time immemorial. The world we live in is not of primary colours. If anything it is of countless hues. Even in the past fifty years, men of any number of hues have occupied seats of authority in every emerging democracy or dictatorship all across Africa and Asia. As expected, some did nice things, but quite a few turned into monsters.
Does the experience of the world count for anything with the American voter? You'd think it would, at least for the liberal kind. But the latter presently seem as much infected with the virus of 'American Exceptionalism' as the next Republican. Not even our own recent experience counts for much against that desire to elect the 'first'. Clarence Thomas didn't turn out to be another Thurgood Marshall. Madeleine Albright saw nothing wrong in considering Iraqi children as collateral damage, just as Donald Rumsfeld made his remark--'stuff happens'--concerning the pillaging and killing in Baghdad. Both were equally infatuated with the righteousness of their cause. Did Colin Powell stand up to the neo-cons? Was he any different from the present Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who is both a woman and a person of colour?
I had just started this piece when the news came of Mrs. Clinton's well-intentioned remark about the collaboration between a Black visionary and a White pragmatist that changed political history in this country. Instantly there was nothing else on the air and on the screen. One only heard self-serving accusations, one only saw self- righteous posturing. Liberal politics swiftly fell to the level of 'She did'/'No, she didn't'.
Both Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama have collected millions to fight the primaries. Whoever wins will then collect more millions to fight the main election. And, if elected, will immediately start raising funds for his or her re-election. So has it gone on for years, and will continue unless the people of the United States force the Congress to change the rules of the game. But there is no hope for that. Not when everyone seems so hell bent on having a brief "feel good" experience come election time, instead of doing something that might have a more lasting effect for the good of the country.
Get a life, liberal America, for the world's sake and for our own.