Former congresswoman and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro asserted that if Barack “Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in this concept.”
This assessment strikes many people as being wrong headed at a gut level, but empirically it can be proven wrong simply by looking at John Edwards’ political career. Edwards is Caucasian and an attorney. He is young for politics and has 6 years of experience in elected office. His one term in the United States Senate buttressed his campaign for the presidency in 2004. Edwards finished a respectable second to John Kerry in the 2004 delegate count and served as the Vice Presidential nominee for the Democratic Party.
A well-spoken lawyer ran for president and had a very good showing despite only having won a single statewide election? By Ferraro’s own standards this could not have happened because Edwards’ is white and as she said a white male would not be in the position Obama currently occupies.
Some may argue Edwards served 4 years of his term in the U.S. Senate prior to running for President and this differentiates him from Obama who was shown into the Senate in 2005 and began running in 2007. The thing is Obama spent 7 years in the Illinois state senate so his political experience is at least equal to Edwards’ in 2004. Others might object that Edwards did not win the nomination or ever lead in the delegate count in 2004. This is true, but by the time the nominating process was over many Democrats preferred Edwards to John Kerry. It is highly likely to my mind that had Edwards won Iowa in 2004 he would have gotten the “anybody but Dean” support that pushed Kerry to the 2004 nomination. Edwards lost Iowa by a mere 2 points to John Kerry. Therefore, Edwards with a similar resume, gender and communication skill set was in nearly the same position in 2004 that Obama is in now.
Some still may argue that Edwards had a better private sector career as an attorney and that made a difference in his 2004 presidential credentials. The fact is Edwards was a great trial lawyer. Barack Obama was head of the Harvard Law Review and taught constitutional law courses at the University of Chicago. Constitutional Law and Trial Law are different fields to be sure*, but Harvard and the University of Chicago do not just hand out those honors to anyone. Once again Obama’s resume seems to be at least equal to that of John Edwards in 2004.
If this is still not enough to prove Ferraro’s claims to be absurd, consider that Al Gore had John Edwards on his short list of potential running mates in 2000 when Edwards had been in the U.S. Senate less than 2 years. In 2000, Edwards had still only won 1 election, had served in the Senate fewer than 18 months and was seriously considered to be a Vice Presidential nominee despite having to bear the burden of being a white male. How could Edwards have been in that position if Ferraro was right about Obama? Sorry, but a look at the previous two election cycles prove that Ferraro’s claims do not pass the smell test.
* This is one key difference between Obama and Edwards’ disposition when it comes to politics: Obama is more theoretical and offers a grand vision so constitutional law suits him. Edwards is more of a populist fighting for the little guy and sticking it to the fat cats so he is more suited to trial law. Still, both men’s political talents and resumes are not that different despite one being white and the other being an African American.