The Trailblazing Candidate

Columnist : Albert Paschall

by Albert Paschall,
Senior Commentator, Lincoln Institute

I’ve been thinking about running for president. Since Pennsylvania’s upcoming primary is going to be important for the first time in a generation and the two leading candidates are virtually deadlocked in the polls, I might just be the trailblazing candidate that breaks the stalemate, gains a momentum and ends up brokering the Democratic National Convention.

I think I’ve found the right niche too. In this race you need to be a trailblazer. Going up against the first female candidate and the first African American contender I’ve got to position my candidacy to stand out in the field and capture certain voters. I’ll throw my hat in as the left handed, Italian/Irish with traces of German ancestry candidate for president of the United States.

Now left handed-ness isn’t new to the presidency. In the last three decades we’ve actually had four left handed presidents. Ford, Reagan, Bush – 41 and Clinton were all part of the southpaw minority. However none of them, even the iconic Reagan, did anything to advance the cause of the lefty challenged. When I campaign to end our long ignored status by promising left handed equality on refrigerator doors, remote controls, beer cans and even power lawn mowers I will capture a lot of my people.

But I need my ancestral heritage to really make the case. I’ll need to position myself as the left handed libertarian reaching out to left wing Democrats trying to woo people of Italian, Irish and German heritage because I’m probably going to split the left handed vote with the other southpaw in the race: Senator Barack Obama.

The question is what will Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton’s hit person say to demean my candidacy? Former trailblazing vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro has consistently claimed that Senator Obama’s leading position in this race is merely because he is black. She’ll probably be particularly angry at me. As she is a fellow Italian- American when I describe her as a “hit person” am I not stereotyping her in the way that a tawdry HBO TV series defames Italian Americans by painting us as a bunch who when we are not busy murdering for money spend our days hanging out drunk in strip joints?

When Congresswoman Ferraro makes such ridiculous claims she also forgets history. When she became the first woman to be on a national ticket of a serious party didn’t her detractors immediately spread lies about business connections of her successful Italian American husband to alleged mob figures? Would that have been the case if her name was Geraldine Bush?

The phenomena of Senator Obama, in a paraphrase of another trailblazer, the Irish Catholic John Kennedy, is that he is the leading Democratic candidate for president who happens to be black. A year ago who would have imagined that a young African American from Illinois would have swept the Clinton machine in what was the capital state of the old Confederacy? Doesn’t that victory say something about maturing racial tolerance in this country?

Congresswoman Ferraro should heed the words of another trailblazer, the first serious Italian American candidate for president. In a 1986 speech about another Senator from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo said: “are there so many who do not understand the beauty and power of this nation, that they could make the tint of your skin, or the sex you were born to or the vowels of your name, an impediment to progress in this land of opportunity?”

Someday my two year old grandson will be ready to run for president. He appears to be left handed and has ancestral roots that are Italian, Irish, German and African American. When that proud day comes my only hope is that this great nation has abandoned any bias and that he is judged by what Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. prayed for so long ago: not by the color of his skin but the content of his character.

Albert Paschall
Senior Fellow
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.