As I’ve watched the Democratic Party debates over the past couple days, one thing has struck me – we have come a long way America! When JFK ran for election, it was a big deal because he was potentially the first Catholic President. In 2008, the election of Obama as our first black President prompted a national conversation about race. And more recently, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy as a woman caused equal controversy. For each of these individuals, the question of identity took front and center. Each faced intense pressure and endless questions.
Are you black enough? Are you too black? Are you likeable? Are you strong enough? Can you be Commander in Chief?
Now look at the podium. No one seems to be asking those questions. We have 6 women running for President. We have candidates that are black, brown and Asian. Some are young and some not quite. Most are heterosexual and one, not so. The persona we expect to see in our President is no longer one-dimensional and we are all better off because of it.
The real victory isn’t just for the actual candidates but for all of us. The “first” ones always have the hardest time as they have to work hard to prove themselves. But their experience has paved the path for the rest . What is striking is that it is not just their looks, but the backgrounds of the candidates that are diverse; there is not one proven path to run for that office.
We can thank our first Reality Show President for that!
This unprecedented diversity of backgrounds, life experiences, gender and careers is a game changer. Look at the topics being discussed on a national stage – health care, women’s reproductive rights, equal pay, immigration, climate change, criminal justice etc. Most of these issues, which affect every American, never got airtime before. What is significant about this diverse array of candidates is what it represents about the new democratic base. The increasing diversity of democratic voters demands better representation. There is a battle of values and ideas within the party and this wide gamut is represented by this vast array of presidential candidates.
The next few months will be intriguing. Some candidates will falter, others will bow out and eventually only one of them will make it to the final night. But I am excited to see that we have come to a place in our country where we can debate the merits of the ideas and policies that the candidates propose and not what they look like or where they came from.
What will my next President look like? Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.
All I care about is what their policies are like.
Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.