So When Will a Muslim Be President?
A guide to which minority group has the best chance to win the White House next.
At long last, my people have an answer to the question "When will we have a Jewish president?" The answer, it turns out, is "Not before we have a black president." I imagine that all ethnic groups play this game of "when will one of ours get there?" (The question is especially common among Jews, since we're sort of white and used to success at other jobs—law, medicine, swimming.) But now that a half-African man with Muslim ancestors has defeated, for the presidency, an Episcopalian with a Roman numeral after his name, the bookmakers have to move the odds for all of us.
Which historically oppressed group will see one of its own take the oath of the presidency on a Bible/Quran/Analects/etc. next? We must admit that some groups are too small to have much of a chance—met any Zoroastrians lately?—and others seem too exotic. But plenty of others are in the running. Here, then, is a guide to which minority group will next see one of its own in the White House, in descending order of probability, and with possible candidates included:
The women: First off, they're not a minority. With so many more men than women imprisoned, unable to vote because of felony convictions, dying in battle, and murdered, there are both more women alive and more women eligible to vote. If they choose to unite behind one of their own—as many of them were inclined to do in 2008—they'll be the not-so-little voting bloc that could. Top candidates: Hillary Clinton, although by 2012 she'll be a little long in the pantsuit; Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, mentioned as a possible Democratic veep this year, but she is only six months younger than Clinton; and Sen. Claire McCaskill, from the swing state of Missouri. Many top Republican women are either too moderate for the base, like Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe; too old, like Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison; or too Sarah Palin, like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
The Latter-day Saints:Learn the terminology—they often call themselves "Saints" or "LDS"—because a Mormon president is coming. The main Mormon denomination claims 5.7 million adherents in the United States, making it twice as large as the Episcopal church and the Congregationalists put together. And despite widespread prejudice against Mormons, they're overrepresented in national politics. Until Oregon's Gordon Smith lost last week, there were five Mormon senators: four Republicans and a very big Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid. Mormons are also an unusually affluent group, with many businessmen in their ranks, and as Mitt Romney's campaign showed, they're inclined to give to one of their own. The liberal Barack Obama may prove a boon to conservative Mormons' electoral prospects: Those least inclined to support a Mormon are Southern Protestants, a group Obama struggled with, but after they have four or eight years to get used to a black man in the White House, a Mitt Romney or an Orrin Hatch might not seem so strange. If Jeremiah Wright couldn't derail Obama, who will be afraid of Mormons' sacred underwear? Top candidates: Romney, although his sell-by date is nearing, and former Utah Gov. and current Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt. Dark horse: wildly popular, if troglodytic, radio host Glenn Beck.
The Jews: Together now, a sigh of relief: It's not going to be Lieberman! Having dirty-danced with too many political parties in the past four years, Joe's rep is tarnished; Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid are both happy to use him, but neither really wants to be seen holding hands with him the next morning. So which members of the tribe—a tribe that is about 5 million strong in America, with deep pockets, high voter turnout, and diminishing fear of the Bradley (Bernstein?) Effect—might be next on America's dance card? Top candidates: Rahm Emanuel, congressman-cum-chief of staff, a man whose debtors include every Democrat in Congress, since he led the House Dems' fundraising effort in the watershed election of 2006; rising GOP star Eric Cantor, of Virginia's 7th congressional district; and Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, whose very name recalls that old, shattered dream known as campaign-finance reform. But Feingold, who has thought about running before, is on the record supporting same-sex marriages, so we may want to sub in Ed Rendell, the Pennsylvania governor who, after supporting Hillary, helped deliver his state to Obama. If you think Rendell (b. 1944) is too old, and you just can't see Michael Bloomberg in the Oval Office, then it might be fun to consider Al Franken—should he push aside his fellow Jew, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, in the recount still in progress.
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