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John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Ethnic Incorporation and Avoidance

Robert C. Smith

Publication Year: 2013

Fascinating look at the challenges faced by John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama in their quests to win the presidency.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-4

Barack Obama’s election to the presidency represents the ultimate manifestation of the incorporation or integration of African Americans into the political system. This process of incorporation started in the late 1960s with the election of blacks to big‑city mayoralties and appointments to high‑level positions in the federal executive and judicial...

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Chapter 1: Understanding Ethnicity and Ethnic Incorporation in the United States

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pp. 5-12

Generally, a group distinguishable on the basis of religion, race, language, national origins, immigrant status, or any combination of these becomes an ethnic group if it faces subordination or exclusion from a society’s opportunity structures on the basis of these ethnic markers. The greater the degree or intensity of the subordination or exclusion, the greater ...

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Chapter 2: The Subordination of Irish Catholics and African Americans

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pp. 13-24

The oppression of the Catholics of Ireland has been described as an almost “ideal‑typical” case of colonialism, providing the English valuable experience that they later used to colonize Africa and other parts of the world.1 The English conquest of Ireland in the twelfth century inaugurated centuries of subordination that did not come fully to an end ...

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Chapter 3: Identity, Consciousness, Solidarity, and Culture: Irish Catholics and African Americans

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pp. 25-32

The classic weapon of the ethnic oppressed is solidarity, derived from consciousness of one’s identity and the need to organize on that basis to survive in a hostile environment. Individuals in solidarity groups think in terms of the effects of societal decisions on the group and feel they are in some ways personally affected by what happens to the ...

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Chapter 4: Boston, Chicago, and the Rise of Kennedy and Obama

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pp. 33-58

Boston has been described as a “caste-ridden city” where the aristocratically pretentious “Brahmins,” tracing their ancestry to the English founders of the city, “generally regarded the Irish as members of a barbaric, inferior and unmanageable race and who saw themselves as representatives of a superior English culture.”1 Boston’s Brahmins, however, were relatively ...

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Chapter 5: Ethnic Men: The Al Smith and Jesse Jackson Campaigns

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pp. 59-76

Al Smith was the first Catholic Irish political leader with a national following. Jesse Jackson was the first African American leader with a national electoral power base. When Smith ran for president in 1928 he was the four‑time governor of the nation’s most populous state. When Jackson ran in 1984 he had never held elective office and was attempting ...

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Chapter 6: The Incorporation of the Catholic Irish and the Semi‑Incorporation of African Americans

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pp. 77-102

Writing in 1972 Andrew Greeley observed:
Practically every accusation that has been made against blacks has also been made against the Irish: their family life was inferior, they had no ambition, they did not keep up their homes, they drank too much, they were not responsible, ...

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Chapter 7: Kennedy and Obama: Charisma, Character, and Ethnic Identity

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pp. 103-118

“Coolness, detachment, rationalism.” “Ultimate pragmatist, deliberate thinker.” “Nimble mind, wide ranging intellect, astonishingly self‑contained.” “The combination of a first class intellect and first class temperament.” “Bright and attractive, an air of calm and a wonderful speaking voice.” “Calm and cool, not just intellectualism but judgment.”...

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Chapter 8: Religion and the Election of 1960

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pp. 119-138

It is paradoxical. In 2008 Barack Obama faced no organized opposition to his candidacy based on race, whereas John Kennedy faced well‑organized opposition—overt and clandestine—because of religion. This is paradoxical first because the ideology of white supremacy and racism are historically more deeply rooted in American culture than anti‑Irish sentiments or ...

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Chapter 9: Race and the Election of 2008

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pp. 139-164

In no other democratic polity in the world could Barack Obama—a young backbencher with about three years’ experience in national office and unknown to party leaders just four years before—have been selected by a major party as its nominee to run for the highest office in the land. This is because “no other nation, none ever, anywhere has ...

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Chapter 10: The Politics of Ethnic Avoidance in the Kennedy and Obama Administrations

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pp. 165-184

The first ethnic presidents were, by coincidence, also liberal reform Obama in their first year proposed extensive programs of progressive change. Both also came to power in perilous times, with crises or incipient crises at home and abroad. Both had large majorities in both houses of Congress, but Democratic Party factionalism and antiquated ...

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Chapter 11: Conclusion

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pp. 185-190

It has been a half century since the first Catholic was elected president. None has been elected since, and only one—John Kerry of Massachusetts—has been a major party nominee (Joseph Biden was elected the first Catholic vice president in 2008). This is not, however, because Catholicism is any kind of bar to the presidency. As indicated ...


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pp. 191-242

About the Author

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pp. 243-244


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pp. 245-262

Back Cover

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p. 276-276

E-ISBN-13: 9781438445618
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438445595

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013