Presidential race becomes the most diverse in U.S. history

Alphonso Braggs
Alphonso Braggs
Sen. Barack Obama
Sen. Barack Obama
Gov. Linda Lingle
Gov. Linda Lingle

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has tapped Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) Friday to be his vice presidential running mate.

"My friends and fellow Americans I am very pleased, very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States, Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska," said McCain.

The two appeared before a welcoming rally in Dayton, Ohio, Friday morning, just days before the Republican national convention in Minnesota.

So, how does this shake up the presidential race?  And how does Friday's announcement by Sen. McCain change the political landscape?

Up until Friday, all of the "historic" attention has been focused on the Democrats, understandably because Senators Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and Barack Obama (D-Illinois) were competing to become their party's nominee.

Now, with Gov. Palin as Sen. McCain's running mate, history will be made regardless of who wins the White House.

This is the most diverse presidential race in U.S. history.  Senator Obama could be on his way to becoming the first African American president of the United States, continuing on a path forged by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders.

"I know that they're looking down with joy and excitement that finally that America, this nation, has realized their dreams, their hopes, their aspirations," said Alphonso Braggs, the president of the Hawaii Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

And Gov. Palin could be on her way to becoming the first female vice president, as Sen. McCain's running mate.

"I think he made a very wise decision," said Gov. Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii). "Sarah Palin is an outstanding individual. She's a great governor and she's the right person for the job as vice president."

Obama's supporters say he has given them hope.

"Also they feel that they can realize the American dream, regardless of your race, your creed or your color," said Braggs.

Gov. Lingle says Gov. Palin brings something unique, missing in the Democratic ticket.

"Neither Obama or Biden has ever run anything," said Gov. Lingle. "They've never been a mayor. They've never been a governor.  They've never run a company."

Race and gender have become prominent characteristics with both parties' candidates, but University of Hawaii political science professor Hokulani Aikau says voters should study the candidate's records.

"So just because someone is of a particular gender or of a particular race does not necessarily mean that their politics are in line with people of that race or gender," said Aikau, who teaches indigenous politics and feminist theory.

Regardless of who wins, the window to the White House has become a bit wider.

"The difference this is going to make is that little kids sitting in classrooms will now be able to look in the history books and see an individual who looks like them, that speaks like them, and perhaps have a background like they have and say that I, too, can become president," said Braggs.

And Obama isn't the only candidate with Hawaii ties.  Palin studied at Hawaii Pacific University in 1982 before transferring to schools on the mainland.  So, whoever wins, we're going to witness history this November.