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Race, gender issues to play big part in ’08 election

Barack Obama is black, and Hillary Clinton is a woman.

Nowhere is it stated that the president of the United States must be a white male, yet potential voters, and even the candidates themselves, have insisted on pressing these controversial hot buttons.

Sixty-one out of 65 students who participated in a survey conducted by The BG News said they believe race and gender will be prominent issues for the duration of the election. The conclusion drawn by the survey is supported by the fact that if either Obama or Clinton is elected president, they will make history before ever even setting foot in office.

Political Science instructor Tim Newman credits numbers like these to the fact that no matter how many people say race and gender are no longer issues, they are still huge elements of U.S. history that continue to influence the citizens of today.

Alex Jones, a sophomore majoring in political science, said having a woman and an African American on the ballot will get the country more involved.

“The weird thing is, [race and gender] might actually be good for the election because more people, especially blacks and women, might consider getting out and voting,” Jones said.

The sample survey results support Jones’ theory. According to the results, all 28 of the black students polled said they plan on voting for Obama and 13 of those said if Obama wasn’t running they wouldn’t take any interest in the election at all.

MSNBC has recently accused Clinton of planning to see Obama win big in South Carolina with hopes that white voters will retaliate in the primaries as a result. If these accusations are indeed true, MSNBC said Clinton has officially played the race card.

Former president Bill Clinton may have also stuck his toes in the racial pool this past week while commenting on Obama’s victory in South Carolina. The former president reminded reporters that Jesse Jackson also won the state while campaigning for the presidential nomination in the 1990s. CNN political analysts have stated that whether misconstrued or not, many voters will see this as a racial statement because Clinton made the comparison only because both Obama and Jackson are black.

With candidates flirting with racial issues, as well as voters, some are left wondering, ‘why in this modern day and age does race and gender still have such an impact?’

Rachel Dean-Razicka, a women’s studies graduate assistant, said having Clinton run is nice, but still leaves her feeling uneasy because she is facing a male opponent. She said her ideal scenario would be Clinton running against Condoleezza Rice.

Newman said he teaches his students about the possible causes of political affiliation. One the causes identified is the influence that parents can sometimes have.

Many of BGSU student’s parents and grandparents grew up in time periods where race and gender were both major issues. Newman said this creates the adage that if your parents were tolerant of race and gender then you will be too and it also creates an opposite. If you were raised by racists and sexists, you might end up one yourself.

Whatever the true purpose for having such age old issues being brought up in a modern day election, they seem as though they’re here to stay. With democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards walking away from the race this past week, Americans likely have a 50/50 chance of seeing the first ever black or female president.

“The fact that either would be a first shouldn’t be ignored, but it shouldn’t be part of the decision-making process either,” Jones said.

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