New York is already in the grip of presidential election fever, though elections are still more than a year away. The relative merits of the two leading Democratic candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, dominates debate and speculation in the media, while the strongest Republican possibility so far seems to be Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice—though she insists she's not going to run. For the first time, Americans seem likely to be faced with choosing between a Black and/or a woman as their next president, both unthinkable a few years ago. And it's a prospect that many Americans still find unacceptable, despite the pride they take in their assimilative, melting-pot society. In this respect, the world's largest democracy is ahead of the world's most rich and powerful one—three years ago, the Indian electorate had no problems with the prospect of an Italian Catholic-born woman as prime minister of the country. I suppose that's the difference between a 5,000-year-old civilisation and a 200-year-old one.