By Jasanna Sevier
Obama made history in 2008 as the United States’ first black president. Eight years ago, his poll numbers and victory over John McCain was one of the best seen since Jimmy Carter, according to Politico. He was able to get a large percentage of white men to vote for him which is very surprising since they tend to vote Republican. He had overwhelming support for black, women and minority voters which kept him ahead. Today, Obama is on his way out of the white house and his seat will once again be filled by a white president. It makes you wonder when and how another minority will be able fill the position of commander in chief.
It all starts from experience (usually) and there is no denying that there is an under-representation of minorities in political offices. The Senate and House of Representatives both do not represent the full population of the country with their being far more white males in those positions compared to the percentage of them in the country’s population. Who Leads Us?, a project by the Women’s Donor Network, has excellent content and statistics on the under-representation in Congress. Why and how do we fix it? One of the main issues is that there aren’t many minorities running for the positions. With having a full time job while running for a seat, they are stretched very thin and the campaigns are too expensive to run without being financially stable. This stops many people from running and makes it easy for people that are rich, people that don’t necessarily want to help their community but want the power, get the jobs. And with all of these rich politicians holding positions in the Senate and House, it is easy for them to block out the people that want to make a positive difference and, instead, help get their friends similar positions, diminishing the diversity that was supposed to be replicated.
There is still hope for this imbalance in race, however. Most of the time, these local elections are too small with only one person actually running, leaving voters with no choice in the matter. Although there are rich politicians blocking people for winning, it is more likely that there is no other opponent and no competition. This means that if there is a way to make is easier and cheaper to campaign, there would be an increase of people of color trying to get into government jobs and ultimately, an increase of them winning. An ideal method would be having an unbiased department in the local government control all of the campaigning and advertisements for each candidate, making it equal and low cost to potential politicians. However, an increase in taxes would be unavoidable as funds would need to come from the government instead of the individuals and their donors and that type of change is unlikely to happen overnight. Investment and adjustment are going to be needed to come up with a solution to the problem and the country should begin taking steps to getting to a more representative Congress.
For the minority politicians already in Congress, they have already won the first battle. If we are ever going to get another and better Barack Obama in the oval office, we need to look at what the original did to win. Obama utilized social media like no other candidate did before and it won him the hearts of a steep majority of the young voters. Being able to connect with the youth and future leaders of the world is important for all candidates, no matter the method. For future candidates, it would be beneficial to invest in the use of media in a way that was never done before because it captures the attention and interest of younger voters. Obama was the first to not only acknowledge the rise of technology, but celebrate it, thus celebrating the potential that it generates for the future.
Starting from the grassroots is also something that must be a priority for any minority politician seeking the oval. Being able to win over America starts with connecting to the working and lower classes of the population. Holding small meet and greets, volunteering and traveling to small towns shows people that what matters most is the people and not the power. Focusing on trying to gain the votes of the 1% and upper class because of the pull they have gained diminishes any connects to be created by the actual majority of the country. Mimicking Obama’s amazing donation success and putting the most effort in asking for little donations like $1-$20 is a smart decision for a lower class candidate. It shows that as someone from the same economic background, they understand that money is not easily available for everyone and that a little goes a long way.
The most important strategy for the future minority candidates is not being afraid to embrace and celebrate their culture and different cultures. Throughout his candidacy and presidency, Obama didn’t hide is nationality. It’s important to show that culture is not something that needs to be stripped down once you become a politician. It is actually a perfect opportunity to bring awareness to societies that don’t feel that they are the definition of America. During some critical racial situations, Obama did not immediately side with the collective Black America viewpoint but he did respectfully discuss situations from their perspectives. Craftily incorporating different cultures in a campaign and election invites the nation to think and accept the idea of diversity in politics. Being a candidate for the highest position in the land whilst still listening to hip hop, wearing traditional Asian clothing or cooking Latin food should be the standard. Truthfulness about how they are and when they come from, shadowing Obama’s approach, will help any minority get to reside in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.