The world up and moved on its axis yesterday morning while I was listening to National Public Radio. It started innocently enough. Cokie Roberts was talking about her two books, Ladies of Liberty and Founding Mothers, when a lady called in to thank her for recognizing the ignored Female Founders of our nation – then deftly launched a harpoon. It is a shame, the caller said, that history is still taught the way it was when she was a girl – meaning history is all about Founding Fathers, not mothers.
While I was digesting that piece of information the phone rang. It was Richard the intellectual and I told him about Cokie’s caller. He said, You must be the most dim-witted white male on earth. When the people electing Barack Obama (or Hillary) say what they’re doing is historic they don’t mean electing the first Black or female president – they mean the election will be proof the old order has passed. They’re no longer under the thumb of people like you.
I started to say I never had a female – wife, daughter, cat or dog – listen to three words I said (unless she agreed), much less under my thumb, but by then he was explaining the inevitability of the white male’s demise.
The problem is democracy. Here’s Richard’s theory: A group of white men founded a Republic where only white males could vote. No pesky women voters. And certainly no
Black voters. Then, somewhere along the way, they slipped up (or got fooled or just plain stumbled over their own feet) and their Republic turned into a Democracy. Before long everybody had the right to vote and given the inevitable demographic trends it was only a matter of time before white males slipped into a minority. As a result, today – with roughly one-third of the votes – they’re assuming their place as just one of the players in America’s great pluralistic society.
I asked Richard, Well, how do you feel about that?
Feel? he said. What does feeling have to do with it? You might as well ask how I feel about the weather.
Obama in the White House doesn’t worry you?
Well, I’m not blind. I’m a little worried about that fellow at Harvard.
It turns out a few years ago a professor at Harvard wrote a study about the relationship between English Common Law and democracy. His point was America’s democratic institutions are rooted in the Common Law. That was okay. But then he went too far. Our democracy, he said, rests on our Anglo-Saxon heritage. He got promptly pilloried by the brahmins of academia. But Richard’s point (which you may think is racist or sexist) is whoever’s in charge of the new era may have a different history and idea of democracy from George Washington or Thomas Jefferson; the way they see it folks who said slaves only counted as 3/5 of a person (in the Constitution) and Blacks and women had no right to vote – may be villains instead of prophets.
It’s about that time the world moved.
Because Richard had put Obama’s talk about change in a new perspective. When Obama says he’s going to ‘save the planet’ he’s talking about a lot more than just cleaning out the stables in Washington – those lobbyists (he’s made the central villains of his campaign) aren’t just crooks and thieves. They’re perpetuating white male control of government, so they have to go. They’re standing in the way of progress.
The night of the Kentucky and Oregon primaries CNN (or maybe it was Fox) reported in Kentucky 25% of the voters who said they were ‘more religious’ voted overwhelmingly for Hillary. In Oregon, about the same number said they had no religion at all – and voted overwhelmingly for Obama. The point in that tidbit of information isn’t that Hillary has somehow become the savior of the Bible Belt or Obama the candidate of pagans. (One thing everyone’s clear about is where Obama goes to church on Sunday.) Instead, it’s that the people voting for Obama and those voting against him look at the world very differently. And, naturally, the Obama legions want to make some profound changes if they can muster a majority and put their man in the White House – and why shouldn’t they, they haven’t given him $300 million just to tamper around the edges. These folks are earth-shakers. They’re going to ‘save the planet.’
If Richard’s right this election, or the next, will officially stamp ‘Old Era Over, New Era Begun’ on the age of white male presidents. The old era had a good run. It had its problems with slavery and rapacious greed but it also defeated Nazism and Communism. But, now, the handwriting’s on the wall. Seventy-five thousand people at an Obama rally, swooning when he has a hiccup, ought to tell us something: Change is at hand.
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