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Nichols: Presidential race includes an array of choices

POSTED: April 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.

We have a diverse selection of candidates this year.

In the Republican Party, there is a genuine American military hero; John McCain, who survived being a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Thus, he knows firsthand that wars are the ultimate obscenity of mankind. He does support the war in Iraq, primarily because he supports our fighting soldiers who risk death everyday there. His own son just returned from a tour with our troops in Iraq.

If the war in Iraq turns ugly on the eve of our November election, it is possible that our voters might turn to McCain as our commander on a white horse to lead us out of a military mess.

The same might be true if the situation in Serbia becomes an open war between our military and Serbian troops, or if our embassy is seized and diplomats kidnapped, as in Iran.

Because of his age, McCain represents the senior citizens of the country. I heard one senior who applauded his alleged fling with a pretty, young lobbyist nine years ago. "Way to go, stud" the senior said approvingly.

Hillary Clinton represents the baby boomer generation, the women of the country and working professional mothers. Hillary’s daughter, Chelsea, now 27 years old, campaigned hard with young people to encourage them to vote for her mother.

I know many daughters who would not campaign for her own mother because of personal differences. Hillary may not be the perfect mother, but she must have been a good one to have such a hard-working daughter.

It is possible that Hillary might fail to get the number of delegates needed to be the Democratic Party’s candidate for the presidency. It is also strongly possible that she might succeed. Either way, she has encouraged women’s participation in the American political process. One day we will have a woman president, if not now, then soon in the near future.

To some voters the most surprising candidate is Barack Obama. The situation for blacks in America has changed from the Constitutional stipulation that slaves were to be counted only as three-fifths of a person in determining representation in Congress for our states. This is a racial insult.

Slavery was ended by Lincoln during the Civil War. But freedom did not really bring equality. Numerous leaders rose to help our African-American citizens gain full equality. These included such outstanding people as George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King Jr.

Propelled by the words and deeds of earlier activists, Obama is presenting himself to the American voter as a man of ideas, not just as a man of color. In this campaign he has already embodied the strength of character that King and other civil rights leaders talked about.

Both Clinton and Obama are making history, as is McCain in his own way.

I think our process of selecting our next president is very flawed. I think the Democratic Party’s superdelegate rule is not democratic, especially if they vote against the will of the majority in their party.

I think the winner-take-all rule of the Republicans is also very undemocratic as the votes from the second-place candidate are given to the majority candidate. Under this rule, the winner gets all the delegates; the loser gets none. Thus minority votes are in essence tossed aside.

But I believe that McCain, Clinton or Obama represent very different choices for the American voters as we decide who will be our great helmsman who will guide our ship of state through the turbulent waters of our problem filled near future.

May God give us the collective wisdom to make the best historic choice next November.

Tom Nichols is a retired college professor who lives in Gainesville. His column appears frequently and on gainesville


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