Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 1999 /6 Kislev, 5760
Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected
The American voter does not enjoy
free will in selecting a president, only free choice. We don't
decide who should run for the country's highest office, only
whom among the self-starting runners we'd like to see win.
Four candidates now stand a solid chance to be the major
The list of Democratic prospects is limited to two: Vice
President Al Gore and former New Jersey Sen. Bill
The same polls show Texas Gov. George W. Bush in a
strong first place for the Republican nomination, with
Arizona Sen. John McCain his most impressive rival.
This is the litter from which we, the voters, will most likely
choose the person who will take the oath on Jan. 20, 2001,
to lead our exuberant democracy into the 21st century.
Don't look for novelty in this quartet. Four white Protestant
men with backgrounds ranging from upper-middle class to
elite. Graduates of Yale, Harvard, Annapolis or Princeton,
they include the son of a president, the son of a senator,
the son of an admiral and the son of a banker. Their
pedigrees do little to celebrate the age-old American myth
that "anyone can grow up to be president."
Where are the women?
Elizabeth Dole, an early entrant to the field, will be
remembered as an early retiree.
The same will be said of the one, lonely applicant from America's working class.
Ohio congressman John Kasich, son of a postman, also left the fight after a brisk,
but unpromising try.
There are other missing pieces of the American tapestry in this emblematic
contest. No racial minorities: No Jesse Jackson, no Colin Powell. No "ethnics":
No Catholics, no Jews, no members of the religious right. No ideologues of any
kind, no candidate with any opinion whatever that might risk harsh judgment from
the mainstream American media.
One reason is that the four Washington Squares who now loom as the best bets
for 2000 are all political professionals, all men who discovered their hankering for
the White House long before they admitted it publicly.
Al Gore grew up in the Fairfax Hotel, a prestigious Washington address featuring
the Jockey Club. The son of a U.S. senator from Tennessee, he went to high
school up Massachusetts Avenue at St. Alban's and now lives in between, along
the same avenue where he was raised and educated.
George Bush grew up the grandson of a senator and the son of a congressman
who would become president. As eldest boy, he learned first-hand the benefits
and costs of political life at the highest level. Those who know him say he is a
political natural, someone who learned politics the way other kids learn baseball,
that he lives and breathes the game.
John McCain, the son and grandson of admirals, also grew up in the Washington
area. His courage and exploits as a Navy pilot in Vietnam, especially the
character and self-sacrifice he displayed as a prisoner of war, place him in that
same patriotic family tradition. Raised for command, he was running for, and
winning, political office by the early 1980s.
Bill Bradley is another lifelong professional. Upon leaving the New York Knicks,
he lost no time running for a Senate seat in neighboring New Jersey, where he
had been a basketball star at Princeton. Long before he entered the Senate, he
was known to harbor political ambitions that pointed to the White House.
The question voters need to ask is: Does this country benefit from a presidential
election process based primarily, if not exclusively, on self-selection? A process
not of parties picking leaders but of ambitious individuals from a narrow
Washington-centered cadre of white, Protestant men of upper-middle class to
elite backgrounds, picking themselves?
If that's an important question, then now, a year before final balloting, is a good
time to start talking about
JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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