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The Obama Effect

How the 2008 Campaign Changed White Racial Attitudes

Barack Obama’s historic 2008 campaign exposed many white Americans more than ever before to a black individual who defied negative stereotypes. While Obama’s politics divided voters, Americans uniformly perceived Obama as highly successful, intelligent, and charismatic. What effect, if any, did the innumerable images of Obama and his family have on racial attitudes among whites? In The Obama Effect, Seth K. Goldman and Diana C. Mutz uncover persuasive evidence that white racial prejudice toward blacks significantly declined during the Obama campaign. Their innovative research rigorously examines how racial attitudes form, and whether they can be changed for the better.

The Obama Effect draws from a survey of 20,000 people, whom the authors interviewed up to five times over the course of a year. This panel survey sets the volume apart from most research on racial attitudes. From the summer of 2008 through Obama’s inauguration in 2009, there was a gradual but clear trend toward lower levels of white prejudice against blacks. Goldman and Mutz argue that these changes occurred largely without people’s conscious awareness. Instead, as Obama became increasingly prominent in the media, he emerged as an “exemplar” that countered negative stereotypes in the minds of white Americans. Unfortunately, this change in attitudes did not last. By 2010, racial prejudice among whites had largely returned to pre-2008 levels. Mutz and Goldman argue that news coverage of Obama declined substantially after his election, allowing other, more negative images of African Americans to re-emerge in the media. The Obama Effect arrives at two key conclusions: Racial attitudes can change even within relatively short periods of time, and how African Americans are portrayed in the mass media affects how they change.

While Obama’s election did not usher in a “post-racial America,” The Obama Effect provides hopeful evidence that racial attitudes can—and, for a time, did—improve during Obama’s campaign. Engaging and thorough, this volume offers a new understanding of the relationship between the mass media and racial attitudes in America.

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Obama Effect, The

Multidisciplinary Renderings of the 2008 Campaign

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.

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The Obama Haters

Behind the Right-Wing Campaign of Lies, Innuendo & Racism

Wright, John

On November 4, 2008, the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the forty-fourth president of the United States showed that the country had finally overcome its most hurtful, shameful, and enduring legacy—slavery. Though Obama’s election showed progress, the John McCain–Sarah Palin campaign and the Republican Party used age-old smear campaign tactics. Their operators pulled out all the stops in an attempt to win and spread falsehoods about Obama that have only multiplied after the election.

The Obama Haters seeks to answer the following questions: Who are these Obama haters? Why do they despise him? Why do various news organizations, commentators, and political entities treat the same facts differently? Why are these pundits so powerful? In order to do so, Wright first lays out the democratic principles and civility toward which Americans should strive. Next, he investigates the persistent expressions of hatred for President Obama, connecting historic antecedents of political mudslinging along with the background of virulent right-wing smear tactics over the past two decades. And finally, he shines a harsh spotlight on the haters and fearmongers and their tactics.

While Americans have the right to criticize their political leadership, their reasons for disapproval should be based on facts. Those who invent and repeat lies to hurt the reputation of leaders weaken the democratic ideal. This book is for anyone who wishes to learn how to cut through the hypocrisy and propaganda to make informed decisions based on truth.

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Obama on the Home Front

Domestic Policy Triumphs and Setbacks

John D. Graham

The record of any American President attracts attention, but Barack Obama, the first African-American president in the nation’s 240-year history, is of special interest. Obama came into office as the economy was careening into the worst downturn since the Great Depression. On the political front, he would be challenged by the intense congressional polarization faced by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, exacerbated by the rise of the Tea Party movement. In this comprehensive assessment of domestic policymaking, John D. Graham considers what we may learn from the Obama presidency about how presidents can best implement their agendas when Congress is evenly divided. What did Obama pledge to do in domestic policy and what did he actually accomplish? Why did some initiatives succeed and others fail? Did Obama’s policies contribute to the losses experienced by the Democratic Party in 2010 and 2014? In carefully documented case studies of economic policy, health care reform, energy and environmental policy, and immigration reform, Graham asks whether Obama was effective at accomplishing his agenda. Counterfactuals are analyzed to suggest ways that Obama might have been even more effective than he was and at less political cost to his party. This book builds on Graham’s well-received analysis in Bush on the Home Front, elaborating and applying a theory of presidential effectiveness in a polarized political environment.

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The Obama Phenomenon

Toward a Multiracial Democracy

Edited by Charles P. Henry, Robert L. Allen, and Robert Chrisman

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.

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The Obama Presidency

A Preliminary Assessment

Lively and engaging essays covering President Obama’s domestic and foreign policy, governing style, and character.

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Obama's America

A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity

IAN REIFOWITZ

Our national identity is defined by what it means to be an American and whom we include and why when we talk about “the American people.” A country’s national identity is fluid, and Ian Reifowitz argues that President Barack Obama, by emphasizing the ideals Americans hold dear, hopes to redefine ours in a fundamental way. Obama’s conception of America emphasizes two principles of national unity: First, all Americans, regardless of their heritage and cultural traditions, should identify with America as their country, based upon shared democratic values, a shared history, and a shared fate. Second, America should embrace all its citizens as active participants in one “family.” Reifowitz explores Obama’s belief that strengthening our common bonds will encourage Americans to rectify the injustices and heal the racial divisions that still plague our country.

We have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that a society of many races and cultures can truly become one people. In facing terrorism, violent fundamentalism, and other security issues, Obama’s response centers on a powerful, inspiring, and truly inclusive American narrative. By bolstering America’s identity as diverse yet unified, he aims both to counter the anxieties and fears that radicalism stokes and give proponents of religious and political freedom a model they can defend. The stakes couldn’t be any higher in determining America’s future.

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Obama's War

Avoiding a Quagmire in Afghanistan

JAMES GANNON

Since the United Nations adopted the principle of self-determination in 1945, great powers have found that military strength is no guarantee of success in small wars fought against insurgents who use guerrilla and terrorist tactics. The author argues that it is well past time for Americans to understand that military victory is usually beyond their reach in this kind of warfare. Although Gannon believes that the war in Afghanistan is justified by the attacks of 9/11, he contends that the American and NATO forces should withdraw as soon as can be done responsibly. As Gannon sees it, President Barack Obama realizes that such long, drawn-out wars waste lives and drain resources far out of proportion to any possible gain.

The dual-track strategy in Afghanistan now, Gannon explains, is to apply the lessons of Iraq’s Anbar Awakening by negating the Islamists’ influence, driving them out of population centers—with military force, if necessary—and building trust between the tribes in the hinterlands and the central government. At the same time, the American and NATO commanders must encourage negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The goal is a stable, peaceful Afghanistan. The fight against such Islamist fanatics as al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban requires a different strategy—a relentless campaign using special operations forces and high-tech weapons such as drones to disrupt insurgents’ operations. Only when Afghanistan has become stabilized and anti-government operations disrupted can America and NATO safely withdraw, according to Gannon. Nobody should think it will be quick or easy.

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Obamacare Wars

Federalism, State Politics, and the Affordable Care Act

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The Obasinjom Warrior. The Life and Works of Bate Besong

The Life and Works of Bate Besong

On March 8, 2007, one of Cameroonís foremost scholars died in a ghastly traffic accident barely hours after launching his most forthright and acerbic collection of poems: Disgrace: Autobiographical Narcissus. Dr. Bate Besong was a social activist, a critic, troubadour, and playwright; an avant-garde, steeped in the tradition of the absurd, who fought against the corrupt system of governance that transmuted Cameroonians into a comatose and apathetic citizenry neutered by fear engendered by the workings of an existing Gestapo. For the first time, Emmanuel Fru Doh has gone beyond an analysis of Besongís plays into giving an in-depth appraisal of his poems which have, for a long time, held back critics because of their opacity. Doh examines each of Besongís plays and collections of poems in separate sections and succeeds in setting Besongís work in perspectiveómindful of their concerns and the nationís historyóas informed by a succinct political vision and an already established technique modified only by genre. The Obasinjom Warrior, which amounts to a brief look at the scholarís life and a detailed study of his works, is a befitting tribute to a true patriot and scholar who died fighting the forces of evil, in positions of power, which have transformed his native Cameroon into a province of hell. This is a careful, detailed, and authoritative study of one of the most significant literary figures ever to emerge from Cameroon.

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