Saturday, March 15, 2008

Political Preference: The Obama Factor

The Democratic Presidential Primaries have sprung two lucky candidates -- one woman, and one African-American male -- against 200 years of ageing European extraction males being in the White House. The quality of media debate in the US, particularly in the Fox News and Lou Dobbs era, continues to be riveting.
In any democratic society, you would expect that unless there were historically reinforced inequalities, candidates, and indeed election winners would reflect social demographics. Not so in the USA...and citizens do not question it either. Where in another democratic country, people might naively push for rules to encourage women and historically oppressed segments of the population to participate and win, perhaps to the detriment of individual choice, in the US, democracy is massacred with statements about lucky black men, and a focus on the possibility of Islamic contamination in a middle name...psst, psst!
I have strong free market views and would probably make voting decisions for people on the right. Therefore, I am shocked by the implication that a Muslim or a Jew or a woman or a Hindu (are we even past Catholicism??) cannot aspire to and win high office in a democratic country.
It is interesting that the US seeks to export and even enforce free choice and democracy to the rest of the world. Except for the enforcing part, I actually support that sentiment.
But charity begins at home. The US must be a failed democracy if, having allowed women the right to vote in the 1920s, and citizens of African extraction the right to vote in the 1960s, cannot bring itself to allow people to run for office and be elected if they do not subscribe to the WASP norm. How different is this from the caste system in India or the suppression of Shia or Sunni sects. Israel has had a woman president; India has had a woman prime minister and an "untouchable" President, even the UK has had its Iron Lady PM.
When will the US catch up??

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