On 24

Hail to the Chief

By Kristine Kathryn Rusch

As I write this essay, season six of 24 has just started with its characteristic bang (or, in this case, bangs). Much as I love the plotting, the cliffhangers, and the changes in the life of Jack Bauer and friends, what I love most about season six is something that has so far gone unremarked in all the reviews.

Wayne Palmer has just been elected president of the United States–the second African-American president of the United States.

Now, the real United States has never had a first African-American president, let alone a second one. In fact, we have never had a Latino president, an Asian-American president, or a female president. Every president we’ve had has been white, male, and (theoretically) a practicing Christian.

We patted ourselves on the back in 1960 because we elected a Catholic (see? No prejudice here), and we did so again when Al Gore nominated a practicing Jew as his running mate. If you take away his Catholic background, John F. Kennedy was a traditional American president. He was white, male, and from the Northeast. If you take away Joe Lieberman’s Jewish background, he doesn’t seem all that different from Kennedy: white, male, and from the Northeast.

Heck, you can even say our current president–who presents himself as a born-again from Texas–is really not that different from Kennedy or Lieberman: George W. Bush is white, male, and from the Northeast. His family has a home in Kennebunkport, Maine, and he went to Yale, as did the  …

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