17 March 2008

Don't tell Peter he can't do it.

What does it take to break into politics in America, if that's your dream?

Does it matter if you're a person of color and the United States population is approximately 75% white?

Would success be too much to expect if you were born on an island far from North America and educated partly outside the U.S.? Would voters approve of that "worldly" heritage?

What if your name was less familiar than McCain or Kennedy? What's in a name?

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, 1942

London-born African-American Peter Idusogie began
his political career with Clean Water Action as a grassroots canvasser, field manager and lobbyist, and he ran unsuccessfully for political office in Minnesota in 2004.Peter Idusogie Peter went on to found and host “Inside Minnesota Politics,” the first regular podcast focused on Minnesota politics. He could have stopped there, and worked as a commentator and pundit, but instead he stepped down from his duties to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest as he sought the U.S. Senate seat ultimately won by Amy Klobuchar in 2006. Idusogie, a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus college in St. Peter, Minnesota, had a dream. Recognizing the advantages (particularly name recognition) his major-party opponents had in 2006, Peter, who had run as an independent, is now seeking the endorsement of the Democratic (DFL) party in MN over former Watertown Mayor Steve Sarvi to run in the 2008 elections against the incumbent Republican in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District. Idusogie, it may be noted, is approaching the election much the way U.S. Senator Barack Obama has, organizing a very grass-roots style campaign which is attracting considerable interest from voters representing a wide range of ages and backgrounds, celebrating a worldly heritage highlighted by a relatively unfamiliar name.

How will Obama and Idusogie fare? Judging by the primaries in early 2008 in Iowa, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, richer backgrounds suggesting broader sensitivity and awareness seem to be trumping skin color in the upper midwest in the 21st century. While Idusogie clearly still faces name-recognition issues despite prior political campaigns, the voters of the state that not only elected the first Asian-Indian (Satveer Chaudhary) state Senator but then also sent the first practicing Muslim (Keith Ellison) to the U.S. Congress embrace diversity despite suggestions in the national media that ethnicity remains a significant, divisive factor when considering the "white vote."

The American dream, the belief that here anybody can be anything, is alive and well. While we may not have yet reached the point where skin color is irrelevant, (let alone an advantage, as optimists have recently suggested,) surely Barack Obama’s ascendancy, and his audacious insistence that we remember the self-evident truth that all people are, in fact, created equal, will continue our progress in that direction. If Peter Idusogie can win sufficient support to become his party’s nominee he still faces a daunting contest in the autumn elections, but don't tell Peter he can't do it.

Consider the postage stamp:
its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.
~Josh Billings

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