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Colorblind Ambition

Asianweek, Commentary, Emil Guillermo Posted: Jun 07, 2008

As an Asian American, a person of color and a minority in this great nation, I was taken by the sight of a black man saying these words this past Tuesday: Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

Do you know history when you see it? Weve never seen that before.

But Barack Obama, true to his style of the new race politics, where race is practically subliminal always in the background but never dominant merely hinted at the historical sense of it all.

Perhaps it should be obvious by now that its not worth a screaming yellow highlighter across some black text on a white page.

But just in case you missed it, take a moment to savor Obamas ascendancy.

Most people can relate to a Jackie Robinson moment. Or being a first Filipino or Asian American in ones respective field. This was 1,000 times that.

And yet it was so underplayed on Tuesday. Youd think that race relations are the best theyve been in America, that everyone gets along and that discrimination is a non-issue in our society.

We know thats hogwash.

So those in our community who remain steadfast Clinton loyalists awaiting a signal from their first lady, and even those who still define a leader as a white man on a horse, should give pause. Put politics aside, and let the moment inspire you.

By winning the nomination of his party, Obama has brought on a new way of viewing people of color in America. Its as close to the MLK Jr. dream of colorblind as it gets.

When an underdog minority candidate comes from nowhere to overtake the prevailing Democratic first family and is now in position to be president of the United States, thats special.

Its better than moving to the front of the bus. Its the idea that we own the bus and can take it in the direction we want.

Hillary should have recognized the moment

So did Hillary blow it by not fully giving Obama his due in her own speech on Tuesday?

Not quite. She was too busy playing politics. But if youve been overtaken by an upstart after beginning this campaign more than a year ago as the presumptive victor, youd want to salvage as much as you can.

She did say this: Sen. Obama has inspired so many Americans to care about politics and empowered so many more to get involved. And our party and our democracy is stronger and more vibrant as a result. So we are grateful.

And it has been an honor to contest these primaries with him, just as it is an honor to call him my friend. And, tonight, I would like all of us to take a moment to recognize him and his supporters for all they have accomplished.

Indeed, she did acknowledge what surely will be the model for underdog candidates to come. How do you overtake an overdog favorite? Bring in more of your own people. Enlarge the pool of voters. Empower the disenfranchised and give them hope.

Funny how that word hope had special meaning for the Clintons in 1992. I was at that Democratic convention, and the feeling of victory and change was palpable. Now, 16 years later, the Clintons are seen as the establishment, and that magic is diminished. But not gone.

Colorblind ambition

Thats why Obama in his speech that same night in St. Paul was being a bit more than magnanimous. He was sucking up to Clinton and her supporters, nearly a third of whom in exit polls say they wont go his way in November. Obama and the Democrats need Hillary more than they realize.

And that is what we saw on Tuesday, the first public round of negotiations in this endgame. But does Hillary want to be vice president? Theyd have to draft one heck of a prenup.

Some scoff at the dream ticket idea, especially those who feel Obama would turn off his idealistic base by choosing Clinton. He would.

But you dont become president by sticking to your ideals. Judging how he dumped his church and Rev. Wright, Obama is willing to do what he needs to win. I call it his colorblind ambition.

So dream ticket, shotgun marriage, call it what you want. After a long, unprecedented primary,Obama/Clinton is the easy fix to party unity and victory in November.

Election 2008

Race Relations

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