The Detroit Free Press (aka, the Freep), has a front page article this morning on the split between white females and blacks in the Democratic Party. I was thinking about the same issue two days ago as I began work on a policy brief about the presidential election. In a nutshell, if Clinton gets the nomination, black Democrats might be angry because the black candidate got shoved out by a white person, and if Obama gets the nomination, white women Democrats might be angry because once again a women got shoved aside in favor of a man.
It's a real issue...maybe. Right now some folks on both sides are threatening to sit out the election if their favored candidate doesn't get it, which is pretty childish, and good evidence to support the Founding Fathers' distrust of the masses. The question is whether the threat is any more serious than the religious right's threat to sit out if the Republicans don't nominate a religious zealot. I suspect most of those Democrats will go to the polls anyway, the primary exceptions being those who don't normally vote anyway, but who got involved this year just because their favored candidate was representationally ideal for them.
But the complaining overlooks the really important point. Already crucial barriers have been broken. There have been only a couple of semi-serious women presidential candidates, Pat Schroeder for the Democrats, and Elizabeth Dole for the Republicans. The campaigns of each went exactly nowhere. There never has been a serious African-American candidate. The fact that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama quickly rose to the top of a field of mostly white men (with the partial exception of Bill Richardson, who is 1/2 Latino, although it's not clear most voters knew that), is itself an important statement. Especially notable is that neither did it by relying wholly on women (for Clinton) or whites (for Obama). It's been a huge breakthrough, although there are few, if any, obvious women and black candidates for the near future. Then again, who'd ever heard of Obama 5 years ago?