When Sen. Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, there was a considerable amount of shock that he was able to become the first black president in American history. It inspired a nation to look toward hope and change not only in terms of politics, but race as well.
Now, with President Obama starting his second term in office, there has been debate on race being a deciding factor in an election.
The popular term is being referred to as the “Obama effect,” and while having a more diverse amount of governors and senators could benefit the country, a person’s race should not overshadow talent. Since Obama’s first inauguration, there has been a rising trend of African Americans running for public office and some people are focusing entirely on race.
Instead of citizens making a well-informed decision about who holds public office, some would rather vote based on something as superficial as skin color.
Voting for a government official should be based on qualifications and the amount of good the candidate will do for the public. The fact anyone would vote specifically because of skin color has, I’m afraid, entirely missed the point of democratic elections.
Jesse Washington, in an Oct. 14 article for the Associated Press, centered on the topic before the 2012 election. Celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson admitted to voting for Obama purely based on the fact that he’s black.
“I voted for Barack because he was black,” said Jackson to Ebony Magazine. “Because that’s why other folks vote for other people—because they look like them.”
Voting based on a candidate’s race is a dangerous precedent simply because it in itself is a form of racism. Biases should be suspended for the greater good of the public.
Still, while Jackson is entitled to his opinion, his statements do not entirely reflect the voting attitudes of the nation in terms of black government officials.
All over the country, there are individuals who would vote for a white candidate because of their similar ethnicity, hurting all the other candidates who deserve an equal chance, whether they’re black, Hispanic, Asian or any other race.
On a Jan. 20 USA Today online article, writer Susan Page’s research noted that there are, currently, no elected black U.S. senators and that there is only one black governor in office today. However, she did note the number of African Americans in the House of Representatives have risen from 39 in 2008 to 42 in 2012.
President Obama did, according to Washington, capture 95 percent of the African American vote in the 2008 election, which is a considerably larger percentage compared to John Kerry recieving 88 percent in 2004 and still larger than Al Gore recieving 90 percent in 2000.
President Obama saw a much larger black voter turnout than the previous candidates, but other black government officials have not had the same result.
Yes, diversity of people is needed for the diversity of ideas, but voters need to start looking beyond the physical and start looking into the help that a candidate can bring.
I voted for Barack Obama in both of his elections not because I felt a connection with him being a minority. I voted for him because of his promises on health care reform and because of the changes he promised for the middle class. I voted for Obama because Mitt Romney and John McCain’s campaigns both sounded like they were catering to the wealthiest Americans, rather than greater public.
I did not, however, vote for Obama because he was black.
The problem with the implications of the ‘Obama effect’ is that race is being a part of a person’s qualifications and elections are becoming more of a popularity contest.
Page said the “Obama effect” would have a different effect on the American youth as, from their perspective of growing up with a black president, the views of black elected officials would no longer be seen as shocking or as a ploy to gain votes.
Instead, the future voters of America will hopefully see beyond race and instead see the candidates purely based on talent.