This presidential race has centered more on the identity of Americans — race, gender, age and religion — than any other race most of us can remember. Perhaps the most important question that arises from this phenomenon, and a question that will certainly continue no matter who wins in November, is whether this election will unify America or divide it further? Are Americans finally daring to cross traditional voting schemes? Or, are they scared of the unknown? Are we running to our comfortable old alliances, cementing ourselves more than ever in voting according to our religious, ethnic and gender identity?
Our program has focused extensively on voters who dare to defy what vote is expected of them. On Friday we spoke with James T. Harris, an African-American radio host (who is voting for Senator John McCain) and John Martin, founder of Republicans for Obama. What strikes me as telling about their decision is the reaction they have received from their communities; incredibly hostile.
On Sunday, when former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell announced his endorsement of Senator Barack Obama, reactions were also mixed. Although Powell explained his reasoning for the endorsement very insightfully on NBC's Meet the Press, there are plenty of voices out there saying his decision is based on race.
This does not do justice to the deep thought process Powell outlined on Sunday. Yet Powell's endorsement — and the suspicious reaction it has produced in some quarters — is emblematic of the theme of these elections. Are we being pushed to challenge our traditional values? Or are we being squeezed more than ever into our traditional voting roles?
What do you think?