2008 November 4

First African-American Elected President – Barack Obama


On this day, the American voters elected the first African-American as President of the United States, Barack Obama. He was reelected in 2012. As president, he had a strong record on civil rights and civil liberties issues such as voting rights, abortion rights, and the rights of homosexuals (although it took him over three years to endorse same-sex marriage; see May 9, 2012).And despite his very strong record on voting rights, Obama in office seemed ambivalent about discussing race directly. This was somewhat surprising, given his very important speech on race in America during the 2008 election campaign, “A More Perfect Union,” on March 18, 2008.

His record on national security issues, however, did not live up to his campaign promises. (See for example, his national security speech on August 1, 2007). Critics argue that he embraced much of the rationale behind the war on terror policies of President George W. Bush. In particular, the National Security documents leaked by former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden, beginning on June 5, 2013, revealed that secret and illegal NSA spying had increased under President Obama.

The election of Barack Obama, however, also triggered a racist backlash, as groups questioned whether he was actually born in the United States and believed that he was a Muslim and not a Christian (see the book Demonizing the President, below).

See and hear Obama’s 2008 Election Night Speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJfGx4G8tjo

Put Obama’s civil liberties record in perspective: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012).

Read the ACLU report, critical of Obama: https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/acalltocourage.pdf

Read the book on the racist criticisms of Obama: Martin A. Parlett, Demonizing the President: The “Foreignization” of Barack Obama (2014)

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