Racial Equality and the ’08 Presidential Election

Rachel Pagano

Courtesy of dailymail.co.uk

Courtesy of dailymail.co.uk

We are now in a period of political transition where the end of the seemingly-ceaseless election and the anticipation of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration have left a vacuum in the world of politics. Columnists and politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have attempted to fill the void by discussing the fact that Obama will be our first African-American president. From John McCain’s concession speech on election night to the articles and TV shows the week that followed, we have been hearing about the major step in race equality that America has taken. It is therefore appropriate to ask: what role did racial identity truly play in the presidential election?

Racial equality in America is a very important issue. In our laws, our actions and our customs, we must show ourselves worthy of the principle “that all men are created equal,” stated in the founding document of our country. This presidential election gave us a unique opportunity to act in accordance with that principle, which, in my opinion, is not the same as voting for Barack Obama. Racial equality means just that—equality of race—which dictates that race should have no part in a person’s decision regarding whom to vote for. The voter should look at the candidates in terms of what they support, what they have done, what they plan to do, how they act, and what they seem capable of doing. Based upon a due consideration of these questions, a voter must decide which of the two candidates he or she believes would make a better president. Whether the person who embodies these characteristics happens to have black or white skin should never be a reason to vote for or against any candidate.

This is not to say that the post-election reaction was wrong. It is a different thing to celebrate the fact that for the first time in American history, the legal possibility of an African-American becoming president has become a reality, than to use race as a qualification for voting for him. John McCain was right when he indicated that this election is something of which all Americans can be proud. It has shown the great distance America has traveled since Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963. America has demonstrated that race is no longer a barrier to being elected to the most powerful office in the county. Pride in this fact rightly unifies a country divided along political lines.

In the wake of the election results many people, knowing that I was an ardent McCain supporter, have patted me on the back, and asked with a half-smile, “How you doing?” I cannot say that I am not disappointed, as I honestly think that McCain would have done a better job leading our country. However, I can say I am proud to be a part of a country where race is not a barrier to presidential election. I can also say that as a citizen of this country, I accept the laws by which Obama has been duly elected. Therefore, when he is inaugurated, I will stand behind him since a citizen should support his President. Still, I believe that one of the duties of a good citizen is to criticize the President when criticism seems due. So we’ll see what happens.

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1 Response to “Racial Equality and the ’08 Presidential Election”


  1. 1 Jeremy Martin November 19, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Rachel,

    Nice piece. Interesting to hear from a McCain supporter, too.

    One of the most interesting caveats to the phrase “all men are created equal” is the evolution that took place over our nation’s history. When our Constitution was first drafted only white men who owned property could vote and hold office. Since then, property is not a requirement to go to the ballots, gender divides have slowly eroded, and race has become less important in Americans electoral decision-making process.

    Our political machine still has many failures. States like Ohio and New Hampshire, for example, created barriers for certain people to vote in this last election and those who do not speak English as a first language have been prevented from participating in our so-called democratic system. We may like to think our country is all-inclusive, when in fact, we are still only asymptotically approaching such a powerful ideal.


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