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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pondering 2008 - Voters Saw Obama as Shortcut to the Future

I've been pondering how Obama got elected in 2008.

During a crucial portion of the campaign, he presented himself as a trans-racial candidate. That idea had such appeal that voters overlooked the way he pivoted and started scolding people about their supposed racism (not to mention his association with Rev. Wright). Obama became a symbol of what people of good will wanted this country to become. More than a symbol, voters tried to use him as a shortcut to the future: a future in which Americans would indeed, as Martin Luther King Jr. foresaw, be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. But shortcuts have their shortcomings.

Ironically, Obama's success proved that we had not, in fact, attained that admirable national state of mind. I certainly could be wrong, but I very much doubt that a white man Obama's age, and with his very limited experience, would have had much of a chance. As I know others have said before me, he became our first affirmative action president.

I had hoped that four years would be long enough for this symbolic appeal to decline in importance. But I'm not sure it has. And if we pay for our impatience with four more years of fumbling, then God help us.

3 comments:

Roger Lawrence said...

I know little and understand even less about American politics, but I never thought I'd live to see the day when such a great country would be ruled by a socialist. Look what it has and always did to England.

Michelle Hartz, Ph.Z. said...

I disagree to a point. While race and hope might have had something to do with it, I believe the thing that Obama has that appeals to so many voters is charisma. He's just made himself seem more likable than other candidates. It also makes him easier to identify with. It's really just a huge popularity contest, and essentially it comes down to who is the most attractive (more than just physically, of course, but I don't doubt that has something to do with it).

Karen A Wyle said...

I agree that Obama has charisma, but I think it's somewhat exaggerated in many discussions of him. And he has retained support prior to the active election season, when comparisons to other candidates have been less pertinent.