October 15, 2007

Two outsiders

Twenty years ago, when a black man was running for president and a woman was considering it, the two were viewed mainly through the prism of identity politics: What would Jesse Jackson's campaign mean to black political ascendancy? What did Pat Schroeder mean to the women's movement? Neither really expected to win; both were most valuable as spot checks for the state of the American psyche when it came to minorities and political power. Schroeder's testing of the waters is remembered chiefly for the tears she cried when she announced she wouldn't run.

Now, the two top candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are a woman, Hillary Clinton, and a black man, Barack Obama. Both fully expect to win. Both embrace their identities, but that's hardly the driving force of either candidacy.

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