Supposedly founded, in 1776, on the proposition that all men are created equal, it took the United States nearly a hundred years to formally abolish slavery in 1863, and another century to integrate the races. That only in 2016 did a major political party nominate a woman for US president seems somehow apt: the right of American women to vote was recognized only in 1920 through the 19th amendment to the US Constitution, nearly a century and a half after 1776. (Filipino women won the vote in 1937 before the US recognized Philippine independence.)
The myth is that the United States is a beacon for the world and the benchmark against which the health of democracy, liberty, equal opportunity and social, political and economic equality should be measured. But these ideals have proven to be difficult to fully realize in the US despite legal guarantees. African Americans and other people of color still complain of racism in the work place and even in their neighborhoods, where being shot to death or surviving a confrontation with militarized, heavily armed police forces can depend on the color of one’s skin. The glass ceiling still limits the number of women in decision-making positions in government including Congress and the corporations, with the US, this late in the day, still to elect its first woman President.
On November 8, or barely two weeks from today, US voters — or at least those who will bother to vote, most Americans being too cynical of the process to go to the polls, let alone be politically engaged enough to care about how they’re governed — will choose their next president. In one of those rare moments when he’s right, the Republican Party candidate for president, billionaire Donald Trump, has described the elections as “historic.” But it’s not because he could be Barack Obama’s successor, but because the Democratic Party nominee, Hillary Clinton, seems likely to be the United States’ first woman president.
As of this writing the opinion polls are saying that Clinton — the wife of 42nd US president William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton and therefore a former US first lady — is 50 percent ahead in voter preference compared to Trump’s 38 percent.
As announced by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the official election season began last January 10 and will end on June 8 this year. It includes a campaign period starting February and ending in May; election day itself on May 9; the counting of the ballots; and the official proclamation of the winning presidential and vice presidential candidates and their inauguration.
Some cynical souls lament that the results of the triennial exercise—the election of the same scoundrels, incompetents, crooks and clowns and/or their clones—do not justify the 150 days allocated for it. But the unofficial period for campaigning for office is actually far longer, in many cases consisting of the entire three years between congressional and local government elections, and, for the presidential election, the six years during which the previously elected president sits in Malacañang.
It’s become conventional wisdom among observers in the United States and other countries that a Democratic Party victory this November will mean a shift in US government policies at home and abroad. It doesn’t matter who the Democratic candidate for president will be. Although they have different styles, the thinking went, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would undo the damage eight years of the George W. Bush presidency have inflicted on both the United States and the world.
Barack Obama’s emergence as the Democratic Party candidate for President this November is at least partly due to the results of the surveys, most of which show that despite his race, Obama could defeat Republican John McCain. Despite her support across a broad spectrum of white workers, the middle-class and women, Hillary Clinton’s being a woman, and an aggressive one at that, has been widely held against her. It suggests that sexism’s an even more difficult hurdle in US politics than racism.