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June 04, 2008

Obama's Historic First

posted by Alan Greenblatt

Okay, he's not the first -- but he'd be the first one in a long time.

I'll save my big thoughts about the all-but-certain nomination of an African American for president for a little bit. But one thing that is striking from our vantage point is the fact that Obama is a former state legislator. There hasn't been anyone in the White House who could say that since Jimmy Carter.

Before Carter's time, you'd have to go back all the way to FDR to find another state legislator who climbed all the way up the slippery pole.

The fact that two U.S. senators will be the major-party nominees (with the first runner-up also being a sitting senator) has ended the usual talk about how senators, post-JFK, can't get elected president. Less has been said about how state legislators have had little reason to hope, either.

But now every state legislator in the country -- all 7.400 of them -- can, like U.S. senators, look in the mirror and see a potential president.


Alan Ehrenhalt

Not only would Obama be just the second president in eight decades who had previously been a member of a legislature, but with 8 years service in the Illinois Senate, I think he spent more time as a state legislator than anyone who has ever been president. At least I think that's true -- the only other possibilities I can find are Jefferson and Madison, and they're a little tricky: You'd need to know whethwer they retained the positions as Virginia legislators while serving in the Continental Congress.

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