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Obama Effect, The

Multidisciplinary Renderings of the 2008 Campaign

Heather E. Harris, Kimberly R. Moffitt, Catherine R. Squires

Publication Year: 2010

Timely, multidisciplinary analysis of Obama’s presidential campaign, its context, and its impact. November 4, 2008 ushered in a historic moment: Illinois Senator Barack Obama was elected the forty-fourth President of the United States of America. In The Obama Effect, editors Heather E. Harris, Kimberly R. Moffitt, and Catherine R. Squires bring together works that place Barack Obama’s candidacy and victory in the context of the American experience with race and the media. Following Obama’s victory, optimists claimed that the campaign signaled the arrival of an era of postracism and postfeminism in the United States. This collection of essays, all presented at a national conference to discuss the meaning and impact of the nomination of the first presidential candidate of African descent, remind the reader that reaching a point in U.S. history where a biracial man could be deemed “electable” is part of a still-ongoing struggle. It resists the temptation to dismiss the uncertainty, hope, and fear that characterized the events and discourse of the two-year primary and general election cycle and brings together multidisciplinary approaches to assessing “the Obama effect” on public discourse and participation. This volume provides readers with a means for recalling and mapping out the enduring issues that erupted during the campaign—issues that will continue to shape how our society views itself and President Obama in the coming years.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Cover Art

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vii

List of Figures

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

"To quantify the 'Obama Effect' is an exercise perhaps as grand and hopeful as the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama itself. The campaign is well over, and we know how it ended: He is the forty-fourth president of the United States. But what effect his rise to power will have and has already had upon..."

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pp. xv-xvi

"The journey to this volume began in 2007, with stops at the National Communication Association Convention and a conference at the University of Minnesota. As we write, Barack Obama is the forty-fourth president of the United States of America, and we have an initial sense of the effect of his revolutionary campaign. At this juncture, we are grateful to have grasped the ..."

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pp. xvii-xx

"A wise Latina. 'Birthers.' A Cambridge cop and a Harvard professor. The Tea Party. These figures interrupted the congratulatory postracial and postfeminist discourses trumpeted in the wake of the historic 2008 victory of Barack Hussein Obama, the forty-fourth president of the United States. The 'back-to-the-future' shock of Republican senators grilling (now-Justice) Sonia ..."

Section I: Rhetoric

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pp. 1

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White Males Lose Presidency for First Time: Exposing the Power of Whiteness through Obama’s Victory

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pp. 3-15

"Barack H. Obama’s November 4, 2008, presidential victory presented a racial justice conundrum. On the one hand, it was a stunning historic moment to witness a black man1 elected U.S. president. Newspapers across the nation proclaimed Obama’s election as a symbol of racial progress. Headlines declared: 'Obama Elected in Historic Vote: Dream a Reality'2 ..."

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Hermeneutical Rhetoric and Progressive Change: Barack Obama’s American Exceptionalism

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pp. 16-30

"On January 20, 2009, Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office as the forty-fourth president of the United States, becoming the first African American to assume the nation’s highest office. His election also signaled a major shift from the policies and attitudes of the Bush administration. Michael Scherer wrote, 'The old conservative idea of ‘American exceptionalism,’ which ..."

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Ghosts and Gaps: A Rhetorical Examination of Temporality and Spatial Metaphors in Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union”

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pp. 31-45

”Immediately after proclaiming Barack Obama the president-elect, ABC cut to African-American correspondent Steve Osunsami. Surrounded by a teary-eyed, cheering crowd, the choked-up reporter diverged from journalistic that was mostly black and my father used to tell us that there’s ..."

Section II: New Media

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pp. 47

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Media Politics 2.0: An Obama Effect

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pp. 49-64

"The presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama defied and redefined the conventional wisdom of politics and media in the political campaign process. Characterized in different ways, the term 'Obama Effect' probably does the best job of incorporating and encapsulating the wide range of areas where the campaign transformed and is still transforming the political process. ..."

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The Webbed Message: Re-Visioning the American Dream

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pp. 65-74

"A multicultural and arguably marginalized worldview enabled a junior senator from Illinois to create a multicultural and multimedia message that resonated with the American populace during the 2008 electoral campaign in a way that had never been done. Then-Senator Barack Obama’s message, transmitted primarily and innovatively via the Web, was one that sought to reignite the ..."

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The Resonant Message and the Powerful New Media: An Analysis of the Obama Presidential Campaign

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pp. 75-109

"Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is widely viewed as unprecedented and perhaps one of the most highly successful presidential campaigns in U.S. history. Day and Dong believe that 'the astounding success of Barack Obama as a presidential candidate is in part due to his powerful rhetoric and use of the new media.'1 Rice and Atkin have asserted that a candidate’s message and use ..."

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Beyond the Candidate: Obama,YouTube, and (My) Asian-ness

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pp. 89-100

"In August 2008, NPR and ABC political analyst Cokie Roberts criticized then–Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, for choosing to vacation in Hawaii, the state of his birth and where his late grandmother and other relatives lived. Roberts argued that Obama should have chosen to vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, stating, 'I know Hawaii is a state, ..."

Section III: Identities

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pp. 101

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Post-Soul President: Dreams from My Father and the Post-Soul Aesthetic

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pp. 103-115

"Three o’clock in the morning. The moon-washed streets empty, the growl of a car picking up speed down a distant road. The revelers would be tucked away by now, paired off or alone, in deep, beer-heavy sleep, Hasan at his new lady’s place—don’t stay up, he had said with a wink. And now just the two of us to wait for the sunrise, me and Billie Holiday, her voice warbling through the darkened room, reaching toward me ...

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“Let Us Not Falter Before Our Complexity”: Barack Obama and the Legacy of Ralph Ellison

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pp. 116-130

"'Who is Barack Obama?' became the signal question of the 2008 election cycle as opponents generated a barrage of legitimate and fabricated concerns about a charismatic yet relatively unknown candidate for president of the United States. Issues concerning the senator’s mixed race (and thus ambiguous origins in the overwrought determinations of American racial identity), birthplace, cosmopolitan ..."

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The Obama Effect on American Discourse about Racial Identity: Dreams from My Father (and Mother), Barack Obama’s Search for Self

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pp. 131-152

"During the 2008 presidential campaign, Joseph Curl reported that the Obama organization 'would not answer when asked why the biracial candidate calls himself black,' replying only that the question didn’t 'seem especially topical.'1 Biracial ancestry and racial identity are still sensitive subjects in the United States, not suitable for sound bites. But they are perfect topics for the introspective musings ..."

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Our First Unisex President? Obama, Critical Race Theory, and Masculinities Studies

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pp. 153-172

"During the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and general election, there was a discourse in the media about Senator Barack Obama’s femininity. When he faced Senator Hillary Clinton in the primaries, the head of a women’s nonprofit said, 'He’s the girl in the race.'1 The magazine Marketing said, 'In swept Barack Obama with what could be described as a classically feminine ..."

Section IV: Publics

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pp. 173

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Oprah and Obama: Theorizing CelebrityEndorsement in U.S. Politics

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pp. 175-189

"Michelle Obama had many reasons to be excited about Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of her husband’s presidential candidacy. Considering that many Americans see Oprah as one of the most influential women in America, ..."

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The Obama Mass: Barack Obama, Image, and Fear of the Crowd

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pp. 190-208

"As the Democratic Party convened in Denver in August 2008, an ailing but nevertheless boisterous Edward Kennedy stood before a mass of blue signs bearing his family name. As the television feed cut to a wide-angle shot, the audience watching the spectacle at home saw the large, blue video monitors with the Kennedy name writ large with a halo-like faded glow. And with this ..."

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Mothers Out to Change U.S. Politics: Obama Mamas Involved and Engaged 1

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pp. 209-241218

"In October of 2008, a mother driving a carpool of five-years-olds to school 'I’m Obama, and you’re McCain,' declared one of the children. 'I don’t want to be McCain! I want to be Obama!' someone 'No, I’m Obama! But you don’t have to be McCain. You can be..."

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For the Love of Obama: Race, Nation, and the Politics of Relation

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pp. 221-232

"The rhetorical production of 'Obama' gains meaning within the slippery politics of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the United States. This context might be understood as a color-blind racial formation.1 It emerges in the wake of the civil rights movement, the formation of identity politics, and institutional gains for minoritized publics. We find ourselves in the midst of a backlash ..."

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Framing a First Lady: Media Coverage of Michelle Obama’s Role in the 2008 Presidential Election

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pp. 233-249

"She endured commentary and critiques regarding her hair, fashion sense, church affiliation, and political stances—and she was not even a candidate in the U.S. presidential election of 2008. But she was the first African-American woman with a real chance to be First Lady of the United States as the wife of..."

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The Feminist (?) Hero versus the Black Messiah: Contesting Gender and Race in the 2008 Democratic Primary

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pp. 250-265

"Senator Barack Obama’s matchup against Senator Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary raised important questions pertaining to the contrasting ways in which race and gender function in the post–civil rights, 'postfeminist' era. U.S. scholars of 'intersectionality' have argued that in order to understand how race works in any given context, we must consider the role of other social ..."

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pp. 266-269

"When Obama officially announced his bid for the presidency on a cold day in Springfield, Illinois, no one really knew how the campaign would play out. By his own admission, Obama was an improbable candidate for president, and the doubts ..."

List of Contributors

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pp. 270-274


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pp. 275-280

E-ISBN-13: 9781438436616
E-ISBN-10: 1438436610
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438436593
Print-ISBN-10: 1438436599

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 5 tables
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Obama, Barack -- Influence.
  • Political campaigns -- United States.
  • United States -- Race relations -- Political aspects.
  • Race relations in mass media.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 2008.
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