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About Utah: Bias takes a blow in 2008 race

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I don't know who is going to be our next president, but it appears safe to say, barring any unforeseen scandals — and maybe even that won't matter — that it is going to be John McCain, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

An old guy, a black man and a woman.

Discrimination sure isn't what it used to be.

As the Aussies would say, "Good on ya, America."

For all the ongoing complaints about persistent racism, for all our history of keeping down the downtrodden and being insensitive to the disenfranchised, just look at the finalists for commander in chief.

So far, only the middle-aged white guys have been eliminated.

And even though I was personally a Romney backer — after what he did for our Olympics, just think what he could have done for Social Security — and even though I have threatened to move to Edmonton if Hillary wins and Bill becomes First Man, I nonetheless happen to think it's very cool what is happening in presidential politics.

It really is true. Anyone can grow up to become president.

Let the worldwide press focus on that.

Somewhere, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr. and every person in Florida who forgot to turn off their turn signal have got to be feeling great.

It wasn't always like this. The United States of America went 144 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence before women could even vote, 189 years before blacks could vote without severe restrictions and 219 years before mandatory retirement laws were declared illegal.

Women didn't get the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920.

Blacks ostensibly won the right to vote with the passing of the 15th Amendment in 1870, but such discriminatory practices as poll taxes and literacy tests that kept a majority of blacks from the ballot box weren't outlawed until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.

And as for old folks' rights to work as long as they are able, they weren't even recognized by law until the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in 1967. And it took until 1986 for an amendment to be added that abolished mandatory retirement laws entirely.

The outgrowth of all this is the first woman in history, the first black man in history and the second person over 70 — McCain will be 72 in August; Bob Dole was 73 when he ran against Bill Clinton in 1996 — to make a first serious run for the presidency.

What a country.

I was thinking about all this last Saturday night when my son Tanner and I went to the Jazz-Denver game. Sitting next to us was a Hispanic couple wearing jerseys that said "Williams," an African-American, and "Harpring," a Caucasian-American. In front of us was a middle-aged white woman in a "Boozer" jersey. And just down the row were three college-aged kids wearing "Kirilenko" on their back.

There was a lot of yelling and screaming going on up in section XX, but nobody was about to mistake it for a race riot.

Same with presidential politics.

As it turns out, the only serious intolerance in the 2008 presidential race has had to do with religion (see Romney), which is ironic since it was religious discrimination the Pilgrims were running from when they arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and started the beginnings of modern America.

But then again, the Pilgrim Puritans weren't exactly ecumenical about anybody else's religion once they got here.

Even after nearly 400 years, the crusade to end religious discrimination in American politics, and a lot of other places, clearly has a ways to go.

But sex, race and age discrimination isn't even close to what it used to be.

In less than a year from now, one of them is going to be president.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.