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Obama, Clinton, Palin

Making History in Election 2008

Liette Gidlow

Publication Year: 2011

Election 2008 made American history, but it was also the product of American history. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin smashed through some of the most enduring barriers to high political office, but their exceptional candidacies did not come out of nowhere. In these timely and accessible essays, a distinguished group of historians explores how the candidates both challenged and reinforced historic stereotypes of race and sex while echoing familiar themes in American politics and exploiting new digital technologies._x000B__x000B_Contributors include Kathryn Kish Sklar on Clinton's gender masquerade; Tiffany Ruby Patterson on the politics of black anger; Mitch Kachun on Michelle Obama and stereotypes about black women's bodies; Glenda E. Gilmore on black women's century of effort to expand political opportunities for African Americans; Tera W. Hunter on the lost legacy of Shirley Chisholm; Susan M. Hartmann on why the U.S. has not yet followed western democracies in electing a female head of state; Melanie Gustafson on Palin and the political traditions of the American West; Ronald Formisano on the populist resurgence in 2008; Paula Baker on how digital technologies threaten the secret ballot; Catherine E. Rymph on Palin's distinctive brand of political feminism; and Elisabeth I. Perry on the new look of American leadership.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The members of the 2008 Berkshire Conference program committee responded nimbly when I asked to organize and lead a panel on the remarkable Democratic primary season then under way. Ann Little in particular facilitated this late change in the program. The atmosphere in that session was electric, ...

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Introduction: Taking the Long View of Election 2008

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pp. 1-16

It was an awkward situation. In their first side-by-side appearance as rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton gathered in March 2007 in Selma, Alabama, with crowds of supporters and well-wishers. Forty-two years earlier, some six hundred activists, most of them black, ...

Part I. Representations: Is Hillary Man Enough? Is Barack Black Enough? Is Michelle the New Jacqueline Kennedy?

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1. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Race Question, and the "Masculine Mystique"

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pp. 19-25

How can we best place Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign in historical perspective—what were its precedents, and what might unfold from it?1 Of course, it’s impossible to speak about her candidacy without also thinking about Barack Obama’s—and once you start thinking about gender and race, can class be far behind? ...

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2. Barack Obama and the Politics of Anger

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pp. 26-38

“God damn America!” blared from YouTube videos, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and many other media outlets in early 2008, in the heat of the presidential primary season. Black rage was making a frontal assault on America’s consciousness. The sermons of a Chicago minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, exploded onto the nightly news and Internet blogs ...

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3. Michelle Obama, the Media Circus, and America's Racial Obsession

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pp. 39-50

As momentous as it was for Americans to realize that a man of African descent had been elected president, for some it was just as meaningful that Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, would become the first African American First Lady. In fact, in an important sense, her move to the White House might be even more historically meaningful ...

Part II. Historical Precedents, or How Election 2008 Began before the Civil War

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4. The 2008 Election, Black Women's Politics, and the Long Civil Rights Movement

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pp. 53-65

In May 2009, the New York Times ran a story under this headline: “NO RACIAL GAP SEEN IN ’08 VOTE TURNOUT” (Figure 1). Now, this would have been news, if only it had been true. It wasn’t. The longstanding racial electoral gap in presidential elections, in which whites turn out to vote in higher percentages than other groups, ...

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5. The Forgotten Legacy of Shirley Chisholm: Race versus Gender in the 2008 Democratic Primaries

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pp. 66-85

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton owe a debt to a trailblazing presidential contender.1 In 1972, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm became the first African American to run for president on a major party ticket. Congresswoman Chisholm knew that she had no real chance of winning, ...

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6. Hillary Clinton's Candidacy in Historical and Global Context

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pp. 86-93

In an election trumpeted as marking an important break with the past, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy represented both the old and the new in American politics. In an election celebrated as the moment when women broke the ultimate glass ceiling in politics, Clinton’s candidacy showed how far women have come, as well as the obstacles that they continue to face. ...

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7. Defining a Maverick: Putting Palin in the Context of Western Women's Political History

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pp. 94-104

Republican presidential candidate John McCain spoke with great grace when he conceded the election to the Democratic candidate Barack Obama on the evening of November 4, 2008.1 He readily acknowledged that, though he had been bested, this was a “historic election” that left “no reason” for “any American to fail to cherish their citizenship ...

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8. Populist Currents in the 2008 Presidential Campaign

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pp. 105-122

The 2008 presidential campaign, notably the primary contests for the Democratic presidential nomination, attracted unprecedented attention to issues of race and gender because of the candidacies of Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. At the same time, from the early stages of the nominating process for both the Democratic and Republican parties, ...

Part III. Legacies: Democracy Undermined? Feminism Redefined?

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9. Obaba 2.0: Farewell to the Federal Campaign Finance System and the Secret Ballot?

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pp. 125-136

The massive cost of the presidential campaign and the way that candidates raised such astonishing amounts are among the less-celebrated “firsts” recorded in the 2008 elections. It was the most expensive presidential campaign ever: together, candidates John McCain and Barack Obama spent more than $1 billion. ...

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10. Political Feminism and the Problem of Sarah Palin

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pp. 137-148

As recently as August 2008, how many would have anticipated that by the end of the year, many Americans would be referring to a woman as current standard-bearer of the Republican Party? Sarah Palin’s status as a leading contender for the 2012 Republican nomination seems remarkable, given common (if exaggerated) perceptions ...

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Conclusion: The Difference that "Difference" Makes

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pp. 149-166

“Do I think a woman’ll ever be President? How do I know?” exclaimed Dr. Malvina Wormser, one of Sinclair Lewis’s more sympathetic feminist characters in his 1933 novel Ann Vickers. If only I’d been as evasive when students and colleagues asked me that question. Instead, starting around the mid-1990s, I’d answer: “2008.” ...

Historical Timeline

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pp. 167-168

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pp. 169-170

Liette Gidlow (ed.) (PhD, Cornell University), associate professor of history, Wayne State University, is the author of The Big Vote: Gender, Consumer Culture, and the Politics of Exclusion, 1890s–1920s (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). ...


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pp. 171-175

Production Notes, Back Cover

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pp. 189-194

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093654
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036606

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 827454875
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Subject Headings

  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 2008.
  • Obama, Barack.
  • Clinton, Hillary Rodham.
  • Palin, Sarah, 1964-.
  • Presidential candidates -- United States -- Biography.
  • Political campaigns -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • United States -- Race relations -- Political aspects -- History -- 21st century.
  • Women -- Political activity -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 2001-2009.
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