When I was a teenager I read a novel about the first Black president. I can’t even remember the name of the book. It was one of those thrillers filled with intrigue a la Advise and Consent. I think the white president was either impeached or assassinated or something along those lines and the Black man became president almost by accident. Reading it made me feel good about myself because conjuring the image of a Black president, no matter how much of a distant dream it seemed, felt like doing the right thing.
As I contemplate the distinct possibility that Barack Obama might win both the Democratic nomination AND the presidency, I still have to pinch myself to believe it’s happening. For all my life I’ve dreamed of the possibility of this country having a Black, a woman and a Jewish president. Though Jesse Jackson broke ground with his 1988 run, it seemed this country still had a long way to go before an African-American could run more than a symbolic race.
You spend your whole life dreaming of something happening. It appears impossible. Even six months ago, Obama’s prospects were almost infinitesimal. What changed in that time? What made the stars align so that he might actually achieve the Holy Grail of American politics? I don’t know. But there is no doubt that there is some kind of political magic in the air. I just hope that young people cherish this moment. If Obama does become president, in another decade or two the astonishing breakthrough of his run will seem completely normal. Few will remember how hard it was to get here and how long it took.
I spend time talking with my six year old about politics and just the other day I tried to explain to him why an Obama candidacy was so unique. I think he found it hard to grasp. He so far doesn’t “get” racial politics. I guess that’s just as well. Maybe he’ll grow up in a time when a candidate’s race and skin color won’t matter.
Next, I’m hoping for a woman president and a Jewish president in my lifetime. And while we’re at it maybe a president who helps negotiate a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel and her Arab neighbors. As long as we’re contemplating miracles, why not that one too?