Many Americans believe Barak Obama represents a hopeful future for America. But does he also reflect the American politics of the past? This book offers the broadest and best-informed understanding on the meaning of the "Obama phenomenon" to date. Paul Street was on the ground throughout the Iowa campaign, and his stories of the rising Obama phenomenon are poignant. Yet the author's background in American political history allows him to explore the deeper meanings of Obama's remarkable political career. He looks at Obama in relation to contemporary issues of class, race, war, and empire. He considers Obama in the context of our nation's political history, with comparisons to FDR, JFK, Bill Clinton, and other leaders. Street finds that the Obama persona, crafted by campaign consultants and filtered through dominant media trends, masks the "change" candidate's adherence to long-prevailing power structures and party doctrines. He shows how American political culture has produced misperceptions by the electorate of Obama's positions and values. Obama is no magical exception to the narrow-spectrum electoral system and ideological culture that have done so much to define and limit the American political tradition. Yet the author suggests key ways in which Obama potentially advances democratic transformation. Street makes recommendations on how citizens can productively respond to and act upon Obama's influence and the broader historical and social forces that have produced his celebrity and relevance. He also lays out a real agenda for change for the new presidential administration, one that addresses the recent failures of democratic politics.
Table of Contents
PrefaceIntroduction: One: U.S. Political Culture, the Obama Phenomenon, and the Promise of BetrayalChapter One: "The Speech""Simply Enraptured""In No Other Country on Earth Is My Story Possible" "A Decent Shot at Life" "A Miracle That We Can Say What We Think""Absolute Faith in Our Country and Its Leaders""Never Go War without Enough Troops to Win" The Glorious "Hope" of Slaves and OccupiersPopular Struggle, Not "Elite" SaviorsChapter Two: Origin Myths"A Skinny Kid with a Funny Name from Hawaii"Finding a Home on the South Side of ChicagoThe Harvard ApprenticeshipStatehouse Days: Personal Ambition and "True Progressivism" The Role of Political LuckThe Real Audition"It Is Because They Marched That I Stand before You Today"Chapter Three: Obama, Inc. and the Golden Rule of U.S. PoliticsPast Democratic Betrayals IObama's Wonderful Wealth PrimaryDominant Media's Selective Skewering of Populist HypocrisyPritzker Populism"He's a Player": Investor ResultsMarket Democracy and Real DemocracyChapter Four: Capitalism Is "Our Greatest Asset": Audacious Deference to Private Power Beyond Bribery"Deeply Conservative" Respect for Class Rule