[Viewpoint] Attitude matters more than genderThe White House is currently occupied by the first African-American president in the history of the United States, but high-ranking public posts are still mostly dominated by Caucasian males.
The Senate has only one African-American member, among both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Since 2003, not a single Republican representative in either the House or the Senate has been African-American.
Currently the U.S. Senate is holding a hearing on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, who would be just the fourth female justice in the Supreme Court’s history. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently appointed nine high-ranking municipal government officials, including three deputy mayors. The appointees are all white, and everyone but one was male.
According to a survey by the New York Times, 80 percent of key New York City officials were Caucasian, and 64 percent were male. Caucasians, excluding Hispanics, make up just 35 percent of New York City’s population.
When will we see substantial shift in light of the new realities of Caucasian male dominance? The midterm elections scheduled for November are likely to be a test for change.
At the moment, the Republican Party does not have a single African-American member in the United States Congress, but over 30 black Republican politicians are running for office in the upcoming midterm elections - the party’s highest number of African-American candidates in history.
Many female politicians are also running for Congress and gubernatorial positions. Female candidates are competing in eight states including South Carolina, which has never had a female governor.
Surprisingly, over 120 Republican women have come forward as candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives. The number of female candidates has more than doubled compared to the elections two years ago.
The American media predict that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acted as catalysts for a notable increase of African-American and female political candidates. The success of Obama and Clinton spread a perception that anyone can pursue a prominent political career regardless of gender or ethnic background.
In fact, Secretary Clinton is enjoying high popularity nowadays. Her approval rating is over 60 percent, and the news media are watching to see whether she will run for president again in the future.
Not so long ago, the Washington Post proposed six rules for female candidates to secure midterm election victory, citing the case of Hillary Clinton.
However, the conclusion does not apply to female candidates alone. In the election campaign, a candidate’s party affiliation and accomplishments are more important than his or her sex, so the newspaper proposed capturing the hearts of the voters with confidence and leadership rather than advertising the “3 Hs” - hair, hemline and husband.
As a methodological suggestion, the newspaper counsels the candidates to use a gentle tone of voice and speak specifically by citing numbers.
Clinton was defeated by Obama in the Democratic Party presidential primaries of 2008, but her recent transformation and emergence can be explained by the changes she has made.
Now she is described as a leadership figure who can harmoniously bring together the Cabinet of the Obama administration by keeping noise to minimum. She has also established herself as a supportive leader who is devoted to human rights and world peace.
As a result, her hard-line image has been considerably softened. In contrast, President Obama, who was elected under a halo of bipartisan integration and harmony, is now projecting a self-righteous impression after pursuing health care reform. President Obama’s approval rating has dropped from 77 percent to 51 percent.
In the meantime, Secretary Clinton’s approval rating rose from 40 percent to 60 percent, as she has kept a low profile. In fact, Clinton is leading President Obama in every category, from mere popularity to work performance.
The popularity of a politician may depend more on attitude and habits rather than static conditions such as whether one is African-American or Caucasian, male or female. Arrogance, self-righteousness, modesty and communication are far more significant variables than sex or ethnic background.
A politician running in the midterm elections who considers President Obama and Secretary Clinton as role models will need to study the reversal in popularity between the two iconic American politicians carefully.
*Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
The writer is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Choi Sang-yeon