Jesse Jackson made a strong run in 1998. The country would have elected Colin Powell in 1996 had he decided to run. In this article, Steve Chapman argues that America is ready for Barack Obama in 2008.
Is America ready for a black president? That's like asking if country music is ready for Carrie Underwood. If you make it on "American Idol," you've got it made in America, and if you can have not one but two different black presidents on "24," ditto. Most citizens would probably breathe a sigh of relief if they woke up tomorrow to find that David Palmer, assassinated last season, had been resurrected and installed in the real Oval Office.
As it happens, art is following public inclinations rather than leading them. The truth is, America was ready for an African-American president more than a decade ago, when Colin Powell was raising pulse rates across the political spectrum. A poll in the fall of 1995 had him beating President Bill Clinton by a margin of 51 percent to 41 percent. When he decided not to run, it wasn't because experts didn't think he could win.
Barack Obama is the Colin Powell of 2008 -- a charismatic leader with a quintessentially American back story and an appeal that transcends traditional divisions.
That a Hawaiian-born son of a Kenyan father and a white mother, who grew up in Indonesia and has a name on loan from Al-Qaida, could generate such broad excitement proves something Powell already demonstrated: Americans can surprise you.