MUCH will happen by the time a Democratic presidential nominee is selected this summer.
Meanwhile, besides narrowing the list of contenders to take on George W. Bush, Tuesday's primaries also showed that minorities today don't think the same way black voters did 20 years ago.
As caucuses get underway today in Michigan and Washington and tomorrow in Maine, and as voters prepare to make their choices in the Tennessee and Virginia primaries on Tuesday, minority voters are united on a front that has nothing to do with the candidate's race.
Minority Democrats, like their peers in the party, want a candidate who can beat George W. Bush. That message is becoming clearer as we barrel toward Nov. 2.
In 1984 and in 1988, blacks in significant numbers supported the Rev. Jesse Jackson's race for president. His campaign generated excitement in black communities, even though 32 years ago, in 1972, U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm won 152 delegates when she was the first black woman to seek the presidency.
But now there's little enthusiasm among blacks about the Rev. Al Sharpton, even though he has fared better than some believed he would. In South Carolina, he received only 10 percent of the overall vote, and less than 20 percent of the black vote. He has a total of six delegates.
Yet as much as some like Mr. Sharpton, who has as much right as anyone to run for president, voters realize he doesn't have wide enough appeal to beat George W. Bush.
"The general election will be a referendum on George W. Bush," Doug Hattaway, a Boston PR flak, told Cox News. He was chief spokesman for Al Gore's campaign during the Florida recount.
Joe Erwin, South Carolina's Democratic Party chairman, told the Los Angeles Times, "The black vote is not monolithic. But I think (Sharpton has) been very good for this campaign." He said Mr. Sharpton is "saying the right things," and you can't argue with that. Mr. Sharpton recently wondered why a dictator would hide in a hole in the ground with only one gun if he indeed had weapons of mass destruction.
Bypassing Mr. Sharpton's role in the Tawana Brawley debacle, some of what hinders him is that he represents the time-locked old civil rights guard - without which, I clearly recognize, black Americans would not enjoy many of the benefits that we do today.
For instance, Mr. Sharpton hopes black voters will support him because he defends the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy. But defenders of the King legacy are more diverse now than ever, and nobody will forget it. It is that undue emphasis on where we have been and not enough on the future that forward-looking black Americans who respect the past view as a hindrance.
Nevertheless, while black Democrats dislike it that the party leaders take their support for granted, David Bositis, an analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, makes a reasonable assessment.
"The black vote is looking for a winner and they are not looking to make a statement about race," he said.
A black woman on a news program after Tuesday's primaries unabashedly said she did not "waste" her vote on Mr. Sharpton. She wants a winner, for her pocketbook, for health care, schools, national defense, and so on.
If a minority can attract enough votes to make that happen, fine.
If it takes a white guy - and at this point that's what it will be - with compassionate principles and the fortitude to be president and to make that happen, fine.
At this point, we need somebody who will not tear this nation down in the effort to build another. We need someone who has all Americans' interests at heart, who has what it takes to set the country on the right course, and who has the best chance to beat Mr. Bush.