My nephew Luke has no memory of a white male president. He’s nine years old, born in the final years of the Bush administration but as far as he’s concerned Barack Obama has always been the president. He’s been an Obama fan since he was five years old.
Luke is also following the 2016 election closely and tells anyone who will listen that as the future of this great nation he has concerns about where we’re headed. Luke feels it’s vital that Hillary Clinton wins in November. (He’s a smart kid.) He no qualms about electing an African American or woman president because for Luke that’s normal.
I think about Luke a lot when I think about what Clinton’s nomination means, more so than my mother, and Grandmother who might finally see a woman President in their lifetime. Because Luke, and millions of children his age, might not see a white male president for their entire childhoods. Potentially they’ll go from the first African American president to the first woman president all before reaching adulthood. To them Obama isn’t the first black president. He’s just the President.
What is the potential impact of that? I don’t know but I’d like to think it will make Luke’s generation have a more evolved view of what leadership looks like. Perhaps it will make them less likely to give straight white men who run for office the built-in credibility that society currently does. That would be a step in the right direction.
In 2008 I remember thinking it was sad that Democrats were forced to choose between two firsts. Now I realize that perspective was narrow. Moving forward primaries that look like 2008 should be the norm. I’m committed to do everything I can to make that happen because I know that for every Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama there are several more leaders like them who don’t get asked to run or aren’t fully supported by their party infrastructure when they do.
This is the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do. The American population makeup is changing rapidly. If we want to keep winning elections, progressives need to field more candidates that reflect the Rising American Electorate’s experience, values, and priorities. We need to bring more people to the table, and we need the best and brightest of them to run for office and win.
We have a lot of work to do before the pool of candidates for political office truly looks like America, and where straight white men no longer have built-in advantages when they run. But today I’m hopeful that we can get there. Hillary Clinton just made history but for millions of children she won’t be the first woman president. She’ll just be the president.
Written by Mellisa Ryan