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A New Era Begins: The Significance of the Barack Obama Victory, 2008

In the article below Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large provides his perspective on the importance of the Obama victory for the Presidency on Nov. 4, 2008 and the way it forever changed the United States.  

Barack Obama’s victory opened a new door of possibilities for America and for the world. People in other countries see us differently now and we have a chance to think again about who we are. That ought to be enough impact for anyone, but we can’t stop wondering about what else the election of Barack Hussein Obama might mean.

Without a crystal ball, the best place to search for significance is in the threads from which his victory was woven, a rare conjunction of candidate, electorate, and circumstances.

The Candidate

Barack Obama’s most remarked upon characteristic, that he is black, is certainly significant. It’s not the reason he was elected, but it didn’t prevent him from becoming president either and that blew away expectations based on every second of American history up until that Tuesday in November.  I was born in 1954, the year the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. I have gray hair and we still have segregated and unequal schools, so this outcome was not what I expected when Obama announced his candidacy.

It would still be a leap to say any qualified black person could be elected. Obama is unique.  His father was Kenyan, an economist, and dead. How would voters have reacted if his father had been an American whose family roots ran back to slavery? Suppose he had been uneducated, or that he had been alive and visible and vocal?

The images of the young Obama’s family that most voters saw were of a young white woman from Kansas, or of her parents, an older white couple. Obama introduced his white uncle, a war hero, to the audience during one of his debates against John McCain.

I think that might have helped some white voters feel more comfortable with him.

And black folks who are giddy now, were once uncomfortable with white people’s comfort.

People were wondering

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