For the first time since George Washington’s election, the United States has an excellent chance of electing a woman or African-American as its president. And as we inch closer towards this epic moment I believe that the potential of this event will have eluded us and done little to inspire anything memorable; certainly nothing etched in my mind as historic.
With the 2008 presidential election only a few months away, three things alight with crystal clarity. John McCain has little chance of reversing the national sentiment that is clamoring for a change from George Bush’s myopic obsession with the Iraq War. We will elect either Clinton or Obama as our nation’s leader, having clearly embraced the notion of an entirely different persona occupying the White House than the 43 white males who preceded this election. Despite an original face soon inhabiting “the most powerful position in the world” we seem to have missed out on the history of this moment.
In recent years US presidential elections have been distinguished by a discomforting lack of substantive discussion and too much mud-slinging, name-calling, a-ha politics, and frat-boy behavior. And while the candidates promise serious debates on the Iraq War, an anemic economy and a national malaise that has many of us giving up on the American dream; this year’s election has done little to resemble anything memorable. Instead of exploiting the backdrop of an election that may not come along in a few lifetimes and chronicling an essential timeline of substance in tomorrow’s history books, the two Democratic candidates have spent too much time talking about and defending themselves from checkered pasts, errors of speech, and foolish, and mostly forgettable actions that retards polite society, let along political dialogue. It certainly makes these moments less than historic.
Clinton and Obama have marked themselves as more predictable than visionary. We expected more, but remain disappointed. One defends the antics of a spiritual advisor, while the other confronts the re-writing of her history as she decides whether bullets over Bosnia were real or imagined. Obama is dogged by and made to defend the absence of a patriotic lapel pin. Sartorial decision or clear affront to the American lives lost on historic battlefields. Or just plain nonsense? These are the lasting images that accompany us into the voting booth and not a clear delineation on how each candidate approaches national defense, healthcare, or education. Presidential? Hardly! Historic? Never! We all think that each candidate should have cared more about elevating the campaign and touching the voters with their views. Unfortunately, it’s not just their fault. We should have demanded more of them.
I believe that history will be made in November with the election of either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. It should be that seminal moment that is recalled by future generations as shaping our country and elections to come. But it won’t. We will have lived through this moment without embracing, appreciating and commanding its history.