Even in U.S. Politics, Tribalism Is an Issue

In Road to White House What Will Win? Gender or Race?

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Tiffany Warren
Tiffany R. Warren
Roland S. Martin, a CNN contributor and host of a provocative CNN special entitled "Race, Age & Gender," said in a recently posted commentary about this year's presidential campaign that "it's wonderful to talk about the economy, immigration, the war in Iraq, health care and education, but we can't be naïve to the reality that when voters go into that voting booth, they will vote with their tribe."

Fear of being labeled a sexist or a racist has led some people to remain silent about which candidate they're going to vote for. There is some unpolitically-correct truth in that statement, but the issue is not as black and white as the pundits and pollsters profess it to be: African-Americans will vote for the Obama-led democratic ticket and NRA-card-holding hockey moms will vote for the Republican ticket. But if you are someone with more than two "tribal" affiliations, your final decision may be very obvious or slightly complicated.

When Sen. Hillary Clinton ceded her historic bid for the presidency, many thought that the day-to-day musings about what role gender played in the race would end, or at least evolve into a more academic review of her campaign's failures and successes. The country had about one minute and 30 seconds for that dream sequence. The announcement of Gov. Sarah Palin as the GOP candidate for vice president not only re-warmed that topic but neutralized Sen. Barack Obama's historic acceptance of the Democratic nomination and gave us a prelude to a pattern that will certainly play a role in the next month or two: race vs. gender. Two of the most well-known DNA strains in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's universe are now going to be on a national tour in a very thin glass case. With these two in the race, who will cross the finish line?

The media has talked at length about the new, diverse perspectives and chapters this election has created in American history. I think the final paragraph in this chapter can't be written the day after the election is over. When we, as Mr. Martin said in the closing of his commentary, "stop dancing around the topic" of race and gender and "confront bias where it is," can America truly make and sustain the changes needed to bring down old walls and thick ceilings?

The incumbent party has an uphill battle based on the state of our country today, so regardless of it's vice-presidential pick, I don't see the walls or ceilings crumbling for women as much we hope they will. (And not to overstate the obvious, Palin is the VP pick, not the presidential candidate.) I do think the overall energy that this election has created will create a path for others to follow. The true winners in the race to the White House will not be the candidates but Americans of all races, gender, age and orientation who have already cast their vote for change.
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