Editor’s Note – Race & the 2008 Election

Editor’s Note – Race & the 2008 Election
January 2008

Naomi Ishisaka

“My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or blessed, believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success.”
– Sen. Barack Obama, Democratic National Convention, 2004

Copyright 2008 ColorsNW Magazine

It’s hard to believe it has been four years since the last presidential contest. Over those years, we have seen a bitterly divided nation turn against the government, ushering in a change of leadership in Congress and a potential change in the White House in 2008.

It has been only four years since Sen. Barack Obama burst onto the political scene with his landmark speech at the Democratic National Convention. His message of hope, pluralism and faith in the promise of this country landed him in an improbable position – a mixed-race African-American junior senator from Illinois in a leading position for the presidency.

Four years ago, ColorsNW launched its first series of stories to goad, admonish and encourage people of color to participate in the electoral process our predecessors fought so hard to win. We had hoped our stories would make some impact, but we don’t know if a single person of color voted for the first time because of our research and reporting. Yet, after four years, we remain steadfastly committed to the principle that unless all the people participate, our democracy will not fulfill its promise. So to that end, this issue features the first of a series of four stories focused on engaging people of color in the electoral process.

This year, our coverage has the added advantage of an excellent training I received in the fall from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies on covering the 2008 elections. We will bring those resources – particularly online – to our year of coverage.

No matter the outcome, 2008 already promises to be a historic election year for the United States. For the first time in our nation’s history, a person of color and a woman have a viable chance to win a presidential nomination. The focus on this fact is not partisan; this year – as in all years in my memory – the GOP frontrunners are the usual array of white men from a variety of backgrounds.

Suddenly, race and gender are now everyday fodder for political pundits. The airwaves are buzzing with questions such as, “Is Barack Obama black enough?” “Does Hillary Clinton connect with women?” and “Is America ready for a black or a woman president?” Polls indicate that Clinton’s gender and Obama’s ethnicity are not liabilities for them; yet as many know, what a person says to a pollster and what he or she does in the privacy of a voting booth are often two very different things.

Dubbed the “Bradley Effect” after longtime African-American Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley’s unsuccessful run for California governor, many people will say that they would vote for a black candidate, while in reality they vote for a white person. This phenomenon holds true for Republicans and Democrats. But some predict that Obama’s insistence on “One America” – of many races, creeds and beliefs – might be the death knell for the Bradley Effect, and that 2008 might mark the year where a person’s character, vision and leadership matter more than their DNA.

So as we launch into a new, pivotal year, we encourage everyone to participate: Be informed, educated and active. The world and the future belong to those who show up for it.

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