While the election of an African-American is perceived as a landmark occurrence, imagine the possibility of two viable popular African-Americans opposing each other in a general election for the presidency of the United States of America. It could happen. It should be noted because it will probably never happen again soon.
If Colin Powell had chosen to be a Republican candidate and if the strategic inclinations and atmosphere of the Republican Party had allowed for it, this experienced public servant would be an able opponent of Barack Obama for the U.S. presidency. What about that!
Both Powell and Obama are equally marketable to the broader community. They are both non-aggressive, intelligent, clean-cut black men. Obama has the requisite academic training while Powell has the administrative skills and relationships honed by years of military experience. They both have admirable familial relationships.
Powell has the the kind of military and public service confidence and integrity that would lead voters to believe they would be in safe hands. The military has respect for him from the foot soldier to the top. This human connection would say to the average person: "I have your back."
Obama is weak enough in these areas to leave a door open for Powell.
Obama has the power of incumbency, hefty campaign coffers and the kind of conservative cabinet that Powell might seek if Obama had not already chosen it. Powell would have the opportunity to mine conservatives for a cabinet.
Who might run a Powell campaign? Karl Rove? What might be a marketable platform for him to campaign on? Would such a campaign cause Obama to hone his people skills which he appeared to lose after he was elected? Would these two men have any positive impact on their respective parties? Would the toxicity and timidity be impacted by the election or reelection of either of these capable black men?
These two black men respect each other. Powell endorsed Obama across party lines. Obama has sought advice from Powell. Yet there are differences, which might lead to a good presidential campaign if the far right had not influenced the Republican Party to such an extent that Powell would almost have to be “otherworldly” as some of the present Republican aspirants to the presidency appear to be.
While there is little chance of this notion becoming a reality, now is the rare opportunity to imagine such a reality.
William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and MU professor emeritus.