*There is the possibility that after having our first African-American president that our country will soon have a South Asian Supreme Court Justice whose faith is Hinduism, a Jewish president, a female president, or a Trump presidency that threatens to reverse all of the progress that is represented by the first three possibilities.
Which of these potential paths for our country would be most significant?
In reverse order: Bernie Sanders as the first Jewish President would be the least significant. Although plenty of people will claim to be religious a majority of people in the United States do not attend religious services on a regular basis. The truth is that even outside of stereotypical secular areas, we aren’t a very religious population. So a person who happens not to be a Protestant Christian (and who isn’t basing his public life on the fact that he isn’t a Protestant Christian) would not be such a big deal to contemporary Americans. Of course we all know this already which explains the swell of support for his candidacy for president.
The second least significant development would be a Hillary Clinton presidency. Most people in the United States have encountered women in public workplaces. Furthermore I would guess that most Americans have experienced women in positions of leadership. Certainly seeing a female president would be new and take getting used to. But the process has already started as we can all think of the female managers we work with, and/or the female standout who is better than everyone else at the thing she specializes in. Hillary Clinton would be the logical extension of these developments in our society.
Sri Srinavasan getting appointed to the Supreme Court would be the second most significant political development for our country. Judaism is a faith that has a long history in the United States. With the exception of his faith, Bernie Sanders is a White heterosexual male in a country that was set up to benefit white heterosexual men. Srinavasan is a person of color with a faith based in Southern/Eastern Asia. Those two differences are all important on the scale of significance for a public figure in the United States. For most of our country’s history we have limited the number of people allowed into the country when they look like Srinavasan. And once here it has been an uphill climb. If he is nominated and confirmed for the Supreme Court it would signify how the growth the American people showed when electing President Obama has been solidified in the public consciousness. So much so that Senators would not have to justify or explain confirming so one so unlike the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant prototype.
The pattern to notice is that Judaism is significant, but not as significant as gender, which is not as significant as ethnicity and an Eastern religion. And that statement is true because of the progress the country has undergone since the middle of the last century. But then again all of that progress could be undone which is why…
Donald Trump being elected president would be the most significant thing that could happen politically in the next year. This is not necessarily because of what I believe he would do as President. My belief that his election would be most significant is because that would mean that enough people agree and supported his ethnically charged and xenophobic perspective. It would mean that all of the progress that appeared to have occurred was really an illusion. It would mean that a large chunk of Americans believe that the Declaration of Independence applies only to them and not for all citizens of the country. Such an about face would be incredible.
It’s why I have a hard time believing Trump will get elected. But it’s also the reason I’ve been getting nervous.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.