The 2008 presidential election will give for the first time since 1952 no incumbent president or vice president running for the high office. The Republican side looks to be the same as it's been since their first ticket in 1856, two white males. The Democratic Party shows a possibility of breaking their 24 years of two white males on the ticket. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois are these two examples that show a strong possibility of being somewhere on the ticket in 2008. This isn't to bash white males at all, because nowhere is anyone questioning these two senators for being a woman and an African-American. We have learned to look beyond such things, in some areas we have a ways to go. It is the experience of these senators that will come into question in this campaign.
Before looking at experience, it is interesting to note that these two candidates are not the first woman and African-American to seek the nomination. Elizabeth Dole ran for the 2000 Republican nomination, losing to Governor George W. Bush of Texas. Carol Moseley Braun ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004 and lost to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Hillary Clinton shows a better resume than these two woman combined and then some. In both 1984 and 1988, Reverend Jesse Jackson attempted to get the nomination, as did Reverend Al Sharpton in 2004 and possibly again in 2008. Barack Obama, shows a better resume however small it is than his predecessors in this race for the nomination.
By 2008, Barack Obama will have experience in the Illinois State Legislator and four years in the U.S. Senate. People say he's not ready to lead the country. He meets the qualifications specified in the Constitution; U.S. citizen (no matter what his full name is), over 35 years of age, and 14 years residence in the U.S. His age shouldn't be a concern.
Theodore Roosevelt was elected vice president in 1900. He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Governor of New York before being put on the vacant vice president spot on the ticket. He was put there to get him out of New York politics which was corrupt and Roosevelt was cleaning up shop. The vice presidency would put an end to his crusade. McKinley's campaign manager, his Karl Rove, Senator Mark Hanna didn't like the idea. What if something happened to McKinley?
McKinley was shot September 6, 1901 and died on the 14th. Roosevelt was sworn in as the youngest president at 42. He is younger than Obama. Yes, Roosevelt lived one hundred years ago and in a time of peace and prosperity. Roosevelt more than anything wanted to be president during a time of war, he unlike some of his successors had self control. This is the man that helped make peace between the Russians and the Japanese. This is also the man who three years before being the Commander-in-Chief, as a colonel charged up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. Compare that to the current Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush, who did not see combat in his generation's war and his view on peace is different than the rest of the world. Maybe Roosevelt isn't such a good comparison to Obama.
John F. Kennedy was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946 as a Democrat from Massachusetts and served six years. In 1952, he was elected to the Senate and stayed there four eight years. In 1956, he made an unsuccessful attempt for the second spot on the ticket. He became the youngest elected president at 43 years old. There was a big difference between the young Kennedy and the old Eisenhower at the inaugural in 1961. Kennedy served at the height of the Cold War and at one of the most serious moments in human history, the Cuban Missile Crisis. He seemed to do fine for his age.
If it's experience you're questioning, Obama will have two more years on Abraham Lincoln in regards to holding a federal representative office prior to being on a national ticket. Lincoln served in the House of Representatives from Obama's home state of Illinois for one term from 1847-1849. He was elected as a Whig and was against President Polk and the Mexican-US war. The war was very popular in Lincoln's district and his views certainly did not match the constituents. Today's Democrats can learn from the Whig Party of the past, that opposed the Mexican-War, on how to be a true opposition party to a war time administration.
Lincoln won the Republican nomination in 1860 from a list of well experienced men. Those men were then put into his Cabinet, very different than Bush. Could you imagine Bush, putting John McCain, Elizabeth Dole, Steve Forbes, and whoever else ran for the Republican nomination in 2000, in the most import positions in the Cabinet? Big difference in the Lincoln and Bush, as well as the Republicans of the 1860s and of the 2000s. That's for another time.
Yes, Lincoln lived in another, but of all the presidents he has faced the biggest crisis, the Civil War between the States. With only two years as a Representative of the House, he successfully led the country through one of it's darkest moment.
George W. Bush's experience pales in comparison to these predecessors mentioned. He served six years as governor of Texas. Prior to the election, he clearly showed to have no foreign policy experience beyond Mexico. Bush has had to deal with foreign affairs for the majority of his presidency, and his inexperience has taken the United States to one of it's lowest points militarily, economically, and diplomatically.
Other presidents have had plenty of experience prior to being president and still had a horrible presidency; John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Buchanan, and Herbert Hoover come to mind.
Experience isn't everything as history has shown. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 altered the presidency of George W. Bush, foreign policy would come to dominate. Would he really be elected if we knew we would have to deal so much in foreign affairs?
Experience is in Senator Clinton's favor. Clinton served as First Lady of the United States for eight years before successfully winning two elections to the US Senate representing her adopted state of New York. It is her lack of charisma unlike her husband and Senator Obama who have it.
Experience or charisma, among other things, will be what voters, first Democratic voters in the primary, will look at rather than the ability of a woman or an African-American to be president.