Obama and the Battle for a New America
The battle for a new American political and ideological majority continues in 2012. The upcoming election for President of the United States is opening a floodgate of rhetoric laced with divisive political campaigns, racial bigotry, and a call for a politics of hope rather than despair. On Tuesday January 24th, 2012 in his third state of the union address, President Obama he presented the same message as he did in 2008—a message of hope and a message that unites rather than divides Americans.
The recently published book, Obama and the Biracial Factor, argues that Mr. Obama was able to build a diverse coalition of supporters that represents the changing demographic and ideological diversity of the United States. The project and contributors ask if President Obama will be able to maintain this new political coalition by using an ideology of inclusion.
A primary assertion in the book is that his biracial background equips him with a treasure chest of lived experiences that allow him to speak to many different people. Over the past three years the Obama administration has faced an onslaught of obstructionism and underlying rhetoric from he is “not one of us” to “he is a European socialist.” Mitt Romney has said the President’s call for the “Buffet Rule” (a policy that would require millionaires to pay the same tax rate as their secretaries, 30% instead of the 15% they currently pay) is about a “politics of envy” and class division.
Some who oppose Obama take it even further. The Lawrence Journal-World was sent an email that Mike O’Neal, speaker of Kansas’ House of Representatives forwarded to House Republicans that referred to President Obama and a Bible verse that says “Let his days be few” and calls for his children to be without a father and his wife to be widowed.
The irony of these assaults on President Obama, and his agenda to level the playing field for middle class Americans, is that Obama who was down 13% points compared to frontrunner candidate Romney in November among independent voters, now leads Romney by 8% points in new polls. This is due in part to the fact that, as we argue in Obama and the Biracial Factor, America is seeking a new ideology that unifies people rather than dividing them.
In stark contrast to conservative attacks that call for Obama to “get the hell out of the country” (Rep Allen West from Florida), Mr. Obama often calls upon his biracial background as a source for talking about what brings different people together. In his January 2012 State of the Union Address, I was inspired when he shared:
Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal; rich, poor; gay, straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind…Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.
Because I agree, our nation is greater when we are united.
New Book from Policy Press, Obama and the Biracial Factor
Andrew Jolivette, Associate Professor of American Indians Studies at San Francisco State University and author of Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority looks at the ideological battle that is at stake in the current US election campaign:
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