So When Will a Muslim Be President?
A guide to which minority group has the best chance to win the White House next.
The Hispanics: At more than 13 percent of the population, Hispanics are considered the largest ethnic minority in the country—but what that means is murky. Not all Hispanics (or Latinos, as we more commonly say) speak Spanish, and not all have strong roots in a Spanish-speaking country: Argentine immigrants to the United States, for example, are often ethnic Italians who, having lived in Argentina for one generation, now magically share an ethnic designation with descendants of the Aztecs. This wild diversity has hindered the development of voting blocs, especially since the politically powerful Miami Cubans are more conservative than, say, reliably Democratic Puerto Ricans. Still, the sheer numbers of Hispanics, and their concentration in states rich with electoral votes, mean a señor or señora presidente is coming soon. Top candidates: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will be 69 in 2016, younger than John McCain is now. Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, could be a senator or governor before eight years have passed (but many worry about bimbo eruptions, like the one that brought down his marriage). Ed Garza served two terms as the wunderkind mayor of San Antonio before being term-limited out; he was an early Obama supporter who could end up in the administration. And it's hard to resist the Sanchez sisters, Linda and Loretta, Democrats of California, the first sister-sister pair in Congress.
East Asians: Although an old and assimilated minority group—it's not hard to find fifth-generation Japanese- or Chinese-Americans on the West Coast—there have been few national political figures with East Asian roots. Their political success has been limited by unfair prejudice in every era: against Japanese-Americans during World War II, against Chinese-Americans during the Cold War, against Vietnamese-Americans during and after the Vietnam War. Looking ahead, the strong Christianity of the Korean-American community makes it a natural place to look for politicians who could woo evangelicals, but for now most Asian-American politicians come from secular ethnic communities on the West Coast. Top candidates: Matt Fong, an Air Force Academy grad and former treasurer of California, who in 1998 ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Barbara Boxer, then joined the Bush administration; Fiona Ma, only 42, the majority whip in the California Senate, a Democrat with a degree from Pepperdine—a conservative Christian school; and Chinese-American Gary Locke, the former governor of Washington.
Mark Oppenheimer writes the Beliefs column for the New York Times. He can be found at markoppenheimer.com and followed on Twitter @markopp1.
Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty