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Significance

[ 71 ] January 21, 2013 |

I have nothing of interest to add to the inauguration discussion. But I do want to link to Atrios on the shocking significance of Obama to anyone with an understanding of American history.

Whatever one thinks of Obama, it says something positive about our country that we actually managed to twice vote for an African-American man for president. More than that, I don’t think that anyone should doubt that we’d be ready to elect a woman president, too. I’m not saying the playing field is level and the country, or at least enough of it, is race- and gender- blind for these things, just that 20 years ago I would’ve put both in the near-impossible category.

About once a month, I sort of come to this realization that, holy moly, this country has voted a black dude president. Twice! That is hard for me to believe. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime. And if it did, it would be a Republican.

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  1. MAJeff says:

    Today’s invocation of “Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall” was stunning. A recognition, from the central podium, of the importance of women, African Americans, and LGBT folks as American both in their citizenship and their challenges to exclusion from that citizenship was amazing…and it was a repudiation of the elitist, white supremacist, heteropatriarchal vision of the nation that conservatism espouses.

    • Lyanna says:

      Yes, it was a very important symbolic moment. Conservatives have been fighting like mad, often successfully, against precisely that type of public acknowledgement in American politics.

  2. Rarely Posts says:

    I loved the speech. His discussion of civil rights was inspired, and I love that he made a shout out to Stonewall (in the same sentence as Selma and Seneca Falls!). He ably and succinctly defended the welfare state and the need for government to provide equal opportunity. He called for environmental action, criticized the anti-science wingers, and then connected climate change to practical problems on the ground. Embraced immigration and immigrants. Finally, but possibly most importantly, he called for an end to perpetual war, and thus subtly criticized the conservative movement that, as a practical matter, supports it. Overall, a great progressive speech – repeating major universal themes, connecting them to liberal policy positions, weaving them into history, criticizing conservatism elliptically, and occasionally touching on real world impacts.

    Nonetheless, it’s pretty sad that the President made a very progressive speech (recognized as such by progressives) without mentioning organized labor or unions at all. We seem to have abandoned the hope that workers can act collectively to protect their own rights and interests. Instead, the progressive vision now appears to be that the government will protect those rights or that workers will protect themselves through individual action. As a pragmatic matter, that’s the direction our policy is going, but it’s sad that labor organizing is not even part of the progressive vision.

  3. mark f says:

    Said something similar earlier. Medgar Evers’s widow was there for chrissake. If a person couldn’t put policy disagreements aside for an hour and just appreciate the magnitude of electing and re-electing a black president in Mrs. Evers’s or John Lewis’s or a million anonymous granparents’ lifetimes, there’s something deeply shitty about that person.

  4. DocAmazing says:

    Deathless oratory. That speech will be taught in high schools in coming years.

    I sort of come to this realization that, holy moly, this country has voted a black dude president. Twice! That is hard for me to believe. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime.

    We come from different parts of the country. My response is “How did it take this long?”

    • John F says:

      I come from the northeast, I have friend who was a huge fan of 24, which he classified as SF, not due to the FS elements, but due to the show having a black president…

      At the time I didn’t disagree with him.

  5. Manju says:

    It gets better. The black dude was the first president since FDR to be sworn in 4 times.

    The Chief Justice is definitely a RINO.

    • I thought that was very thoughtful of the Chief Justice.

      Like any self-respecting Seekrit Mooslem, Barack Obama is going to shout “Allahu Akbar!” after taking an oath, and he can’t very well do that in front of hundreds of thousands of people and still hope to implement his Marxist/Sharia agenda.

      I’ve said too much…

      • mark f says:

        It’s probably been going around for a while, but yesterday I came across a believe-it-or-not undoctored picture of Obama carrying an ANTI-AMERICAN CONSPIRACY BOOK BY A MUSLIM. It was, of course, The Post American World. I’m not sure if it would be hilarious or depressing for Fareed Zakaria to become the new Saul Alinsky.

      • Jonathan says:

        I’m pretty certain you’re joking. Unfortunately the ongoing Republican war on satire means I can’t be complete certain that wasn’t written in earnest.

        • The Dark Avenger says:

          That’s obviously a sign that Obama is going to complete the Socialist agenda of FDR. I’m surprised a great conservative intellect like yours didn’t pick up on that clue, Manju.

  6. DrDick says:

    Having grown up with segregation and Jim Crow, I was honestly shocked when he won the first time. It is a testament to how fare we have come as a country. This is a sign of how far we have yet to go.

  7. LeeEsq says:

    I suppose the European equivalent would be the Russians electing a Jewish man twice to be their President.

  8. Joe says:

    Some way to celebrate MLK Day!

    Stephen Colbert, who was there in vitro in 1963 (seriously — his mom went to the March on Washington while pregnant with him), should have been there!

  9. Robert Farley says:

    Well, at least we’ve been able to keep the Irish out.

  10. Jonathan says:

    I never thought it would happen in my lifetime. And if it did, it would be a Republican.

    You only think that because you’re White. Firstly, Blacks don’t vote for people just because they’re Black. If a Black man ran on a standard Republican ticket, he’d get the standard 5-7% Uncle Tom vote. And the last four years should have erased all doubts about how bug-fuck crazy-ass racist both the Repulican base and establishment are. A Black Republican would lose 60% of the Republican bloc and gain nothing from the Democratic bloc to make up for it.

    • Redbeard says:

      Hmmm. Perhaps you are forgetting what a hero Colin Powell was in the early 1990s.

      And Edward Brooke won the Mass. Senate seat with Republican votes in the 1960s.

      • Matt T. in New Orleans says:

        Powell never ran for President (and the howler monkeys turned on him quick when he stepped out of line) and Massachusetts isn’t Mississippi. I live in Louisiana, a state suffering from Bobby Jindal’s 2016 run for presidency, and he’s suffering under the same delusion Herman Cain had. The average conservative just won’t go there. Oh, they’ll say they will, but in the end, it’ll be the rich white guy who stirs up the most hatred.

    • John says:

      This seems way off to me. Look at the example of Michael Steele’s Senate race in Maryland. My memory is that he did slightly better than a typical Republican candidate among Black voters, and about as well as a typical Republican candidate among Republicans. At any rate, he ran a perfectly respectable campaign, running only a couple of points behind Ehrlich’s unsuccessful bid for re-election for governor. He certainly didn’t lose 60% of the Republican bloc.

  11. Proposition: Obama’s 2nd Inaugural is the most progressive 2nd inaugural since 1936.

    Any takers?

  12. Thom says:

    It is a very amazing thing. At the same time, we need to recognize that we will have crossed another very significant barrier when we someday elect someone of slave descent to the presidency.

    • Dave says:

      What I wanted to say. The fact that Obama’s African heritage is African, and not “African-American”, precludes this from being a total breakthrough.

    • He is of slave descent.

      On his mother’s side.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        I didn’t know that! Interesting.

        But is it really significant? I mean, if one of his mother’s male ancestors had become president, it’s hard to imagine that it would be reasonable to take it as a triumph for the slave descended. The link is too distant to be salient, I think, with most of the intervening generations, afaict, being free and white.

        On the flip side, I don’t think Obama is significantly symbolically deficient for this lack.

        • Cody says:

          So what you’re saying is we need to re-institute slavery so we can elect a current slave to be President.

          That way it counts?

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            Obviously not.

            I don’t think that “slave descended” per se makes a difference in Obama’s huge significance. I find it hard to believe that a possible slave ancestor via his white mother that neither he, nor anyone else, knew about, is a defining characteristic or was experientially significant for him.

            As Out of the Blue said, he has been fully in the African-American community for well over 30 years. What more is needed?

        • One of the Blue says:

          He’s been pretty clearly identified with the African-American community since he got out of college 30 years ago.

          Good enough for me at least.

          To me, just getting him elected and sworn in twice, counts as a legitimate progressive milestone.

          Oh and then he went and pushed through the first substantial augmentation to the New Deal since the Medicare laws were passed in ’65.

        • But is it really significant?

          I’d say no. I’d agree with you, and say that the presence of a black ancestor from the 17th century on his mother’s side is as irrelevant as the absence of one on his father’s side.

          But I wonder if Thom up thar would agree.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            Good question.

            Speaking from total ignorance, I wonder how much the (known) (US) slave vs. non(US) slave ancestry matters in African-American culture. My experience is mostly of pretty clearly racist Whites harping on the recent e.g., Caribbean ancestry of some US Blacks in e.g., reparation debates (cf Colin Powell).

            Obviously, it’s by no means impossible, but my impression is that the fact of current racism is a pretty uniting force.

    • Hogan says:

      I thought we were done with the “not black enough” thing.

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