Elections a Sign of Changing Political Landscape

The 2008 election may have been one of the most historic elections in America. Racial boundaries were torn down on both a national and local level when President-elect Barack Obama became the first black president and Irvine elected its first Asian-American mayor, Sukhee Kang.
Electing politicians from a variety of backgrounds undoubtedly benefits our nation because the government becomes more representative of America’s increasingly diverse constituency. In Kang’s case, his ethnic background makes him more suited to represent the population of Irvine. Kang is not only an Asian-American, but also an immigrant. He is able to better understand certain values held by cultural minorities, as shown in his campaign when he strongly emphasized the importance of education.
It may be easy to brush off the fact that Kang is the first Asian-American to become mayor of Irvine. However, it’s important to understand how big of a milestone it is not just for Kang, but for the whole city as well. Not more than a decade before Kang immigrated to the United States, there was a cap on the number of Asian-Americans allowed into the country. When Kang immigrated to America, Asians were still discriminated against simply because of their different physical appearances.
Strides in equality aren’t limited to race either. In Oregon, Stu Rasmussen was elected the first transgender mayor. Rasmussen openly admitted to being transgendered and even cross dresses on a normal basis. One would think that a politician with such a unique background would get absolutely pummeled during the campaign. However, it was quite the opposite, as the race for Silverton’s mayor was completely dominated by politics. For such a radically unique characteristic to take a back seat in not only the campaign, but also in the minds of voters is something that was unheard of just a decade ago.
For a person to go from being discriminated against, to being a mayor of a major city is nothing short of remarkable. It not only shows the great advances America has made in equality, but how the nation is becoming increasingly diversified. Even Irvine, the stereotypically rich “white” city, has experienced changing demographics over the past two decades as ethnic groups have congregated here due to its high standards of living.
With diversification, however, comes a change in values. Due to the growing number of religions and ethnicities in the country, the importance of Christianity on a political scale is decreasing. Consequently, one religion can no longer define and represent the majority of the population and politics will not be as vested in the beliefs of just one religion.
Diversity will also change the political views of the majority of Americans. With increasing diversity, the nation will move toward more liberal politics. The goal of conservative politics is to conserve the traditional way of life. The traditions and values throughout American history have been based on Christianity. Therefore, as the importance of Christianity on politics decreases, so will the support of conservative ideology.
A look into the latest election supports this claim. Obama, a Democrat, received the votes of a vast majority of minorities. Without the votes of those minorities, Obama would have lost the race; Kang, a Democrat, also raked in votes from minorities, such as the growing Asian-American population in Irvine. The growing population of minorities in America tends to push for more liberal leaders. Ten years ago, Obama or Kang would not have won their respective elections, not because racial equality was absent, but because America was not as diverse at it is today. As a result, the predominance of Christian conservatives and Anglo-Saxon views is waning.
This past election was a turning point for America. The first African-American was elected president, Sukhee Kang broke the streak of Caucasian mayors in Irvine and even a transgendered man was elected mayor in Oregon. This year’s election shows us that America is no longer primarily inhabited by conservative Anglo-Saxons. It gives us foresight into the change in values that will come with increasing diversity. This milestone election represents “the change we need” in action.

Neil Thakore is a first-year political science major. He can be reached at nthakore@uci.edu.