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The Obama Phenomenon

Toward a Multiracial Democracy

Charles P. Henry

Publication Year: 2011

Barack Obama's campaign and electoral victory demonstrated the dynamic nature of American democracy. Beginning as a special issue of The Black Scholar, this probing collection illustrates the impact of "the Obama phenomenon" on the future of U.S. race relations through readings on Barack Obama's campaign as well as the idealism and pragmatism of the Obama administration. Some of the foremost scholars of African American politics and culture from an array of disciplines--including political science, theology, economics, history, journalism, sociology, cultural studies, and law--offer critical analyses of topics as diverse as Obama and the media, Obama's connection with the hip hop community, the public's perception of first lady Michelle Obama, voter behavior, and the history of racial issues in presidential campaigns since the 1960s._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Josephine A. V. Allen, Robert L. Allen, Herb Boyd, Donald R. Deskins Jr., Cheryl I. Harris, Charles P. Henry, Dwight N. Hopkins, John L. Jackson, Maulana Karenga, Robin D. G. Kelley, Martin Kilson, Clarence Lusane, Julianne Malveaux, Shaun Ossei-Owusu, Dianne M. Pinderhughes, Sherman C. Puckett, Scharn Robinson, Ula Y. Taylor, Alice Walker, Hanes Walton Jr., and Ronald Williams II.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-12

Times are out of joint. We have an African American president yet representatives call him a liar publicly and the Republicans hold an alternate State of the Union in Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Philadelphia, Mississippi, has a Black mayor yet Blacks and Whites find it hard to find a justice of the peace that will marry them in Louisiana, ...

Part I: The Election

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1. Toward a Multiracial Democracy: The Jackson and Obama Contributions

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pp. 15-33

What young Black lawyer from Chicago with a degree from a prestigious law school and a mixed legislative record of reform and mainstream party voting in the Illinois legislature went on to win a historic general election after beating the Democratic Party favorite in the primary? The victor was known for his verbal eloquence ...

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2. Analysis of Black American Voters in Barack Obama’s Victory

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pp. 34-59

By midnight on Election Day, November 4, 2008, it was clear that American political life had entered a historically new era with the election victory of the Barack Obama–Joe Biden Democratic ticket over the John McCain–Sarah Palin Republican ticket. Winning 53 percent of the popular vote and 365 votes in the Electoral College, ...

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3. Dead Certain: The Election of Barack Obama and Its Implications for Racial Politics

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pp. 60-81

Euphoric! Exciting! Exhilarating! At exactly 11:00 p.m. EST on November 4, 2008, Fox News Channel, in the same breath, called California for Senator Barack Obama and then declared him to be the forty-fourth President of the United States of America. In Springfield, Illinois, on a cold Saturday morning, February 10, 2007, ...

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4. What Trumped?: Race, Class, Gender, Generation, the Economy, and the 2008 Elections

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pp. 82-91

How did Barack Hussein Obama earn the presidency of the United States of America? A decade ago, he was a little-known state senator from Illinois. By his own admission, he was frustrated by state politics and anxious for the “upgrade” of national office when he first challenged Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) ...

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5. Race, the Presidency, and Obama’s First Year

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pp. 92-110

This chapter examines the presidential candidacy and early presidency of Barack Obama during 2008 and 2009. Race has been of profound importance in shaping the American polity from the colonial era into the twenty-first century. The legal framework of racial slavery created boundaries that challenged African Americans at every level: ...

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6. Under Press-ure: Overcoming the Media and Its Mavens?

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pp. 111-125

Before Barack Hussein Obama became the forty-fourth President of the United States, his campaign was viewed in three major ways by the media: There were those who cheered him along; those uncertain what to make of him but who retained a tame, mainstream, “wait and see” perspective; and those whose views ranged from “critically supportive” to firmly opposed. ...

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7. Opportunity Costs: The Impact of the 2008 Campaign on the Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton

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pp. 126-140

He entered office in no small part because of them.1 He made them many campaign promises in order to get elected and to gain re-election. By the time his tenure as president was over, some of those promises had been broken. However, they still respected and admired him. ...

Part II: Culture

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8. Lest We Forget: An open letter to my sisters who are brave

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pp. 143-147

I have come home from a long stay in Mexico to find—because of the presidential campaign, and especially because of the Obama/Clinton race for the Democratic nomination—a new country existing alongside the old. On any given day we, collectively, become the Goddess of the Three Directions and can look back into the past, ...

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9. The Ambivalent Embrace of Barack Obama: The Ethical Significance and Social Apprehension of Black

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pp. 148-164

The election of Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency of the United States of America offers a complex portrait of both possibility and paradox, both continuity and change within the context of a society deeply embedded in a history of racial categorization, racialization, and racism, as well as multifront struggles to alter this. ...

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10. Obama, Black Religion, and the Reverend Wright Controversy

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pp. 165-180

Religion and race invariably transform public discourse from civil, intellectual dialogue to irrational rancor. Combine them with the volatility of politics and one has an explosive mixture. Privately contained, the cultural exposition of these phenomena may create unity if not uniformity, cohesiveness if not consistency. ...

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11. Race, Religion, and the Race for the White House

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pp. 181-199

One of the fascinating developments in the 2008 presidential election has been the insertion of black religion and black theology into the discourse. For instance, on February 10, 2007, Senator Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the White House. ...

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12. The New Negro in African American Politics: Barack Obama and the Politics of Racial Representation

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pp. 200-217

Barack Obama’s success in American politics presents an unparalleled opportunity to reconsider the salience of race and the politics of racial representation. Obama’s victorious bid for the U.S. Senate in 2004—becoming only the fourth African American elected to upper house in American history ...

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13. Barack Obama’s Anomalous Relationship with the Hip-Hop Community

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pp. 218-235

Interlocutors in different theoretical discussions have pointed to the election and presidency of Barack Obama as a signal to a changing racial, cultural, and political milieu in the United States. More than any other election, the 2008 election entailed a pronounced involvement from the hiphop community. ...

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14. Too Black and Too Strong: First Lady Michelle Obama

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pp. 236-250

Two days before the historical election of Senator Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States of America, New York Times journalist Mark Leibovich interviewed undecided voters who were still wrestling with the question, “Who are you voting for?”1 The article pushed beyond the typical back and forth between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, ...

Part III: Policy

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15. President Obama: Freedom Democrat or Neoliberal?

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pp. 253-261

As the world savored Barack Obama’s ascent to the highest post in the United States, the same political pundits who impatiently insisted that we transcend race by not talking about it made race the issue du jour. We’ve all heard the jubilant claims that Obama’s victory marks the final nail in the coffin of racism. ...

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16. Multicultural Hegemony: Globalization and the Obama Doctrine

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pp. 262-276

President Barack Obama, during his campaign for the presidency, ignited a movement of progressive activism that has the potential to reshape U.S. and global politics in a manner unseen in generations. One critical area of politics that requires urgent attention is the nature and status of U.S. foreign policy ...

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17. An Affirmative Act?: Barack Obama and the Past, Present, and Future of Race-Conscious Remedies

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pp. 277-310

On the night of the election news commentators effused over the historic nature of the Obama win: Despite the racial odds, a black man had been elected President of the United States. Moments later, in an interview with the same commentators, Obama’s campaign director and close advisor David Axelrod sincerely asserted ...

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Epilogue: The Legacy of the Obama Era: A New Electoral Majority?

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pp. 311-314

Whether Barack Obama is regarded primarily as the first black president of the United States of America or more prosaically as an American president who happens to be black, it remains the case that he is first of all the American president at the moment. And, as with the American presidents before him, African Americans, despite being critical to his election, ...

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pp. 315-318

Josephine A. V. Allen is professor at the College of Community and Public Affairs at Binghamton University and professor emerita at Cornell University’s Department of Policy Analysis and Management. ...


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pp. 319-326

Publication Information

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252093487
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036453

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Obama, Barack -- Influence.
  • Democracy -- United States.
  • United States -- Race relations -- 21st century.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 2008.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 2009-.
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