Barack Obama 2008 the Making of the President

Article excerpt

On November 4, 2008, the American voters elected Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., an African American, as the 44th president of the United States of America. This was the 56th presidential election held in the nation since its founding in 1788 and all previous winners had been white males. This makes the 2008 election historic in more ways than one. Obama became the first person of his race ever to win a major political party nomination, Secondly, he beat a former first lady and senator from New York, who had her husband, former President William J. Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, vigorously campaigning on her behalf during the presidential primaries.

In the general election, he beat both a genuine American hero, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who had initially run in the 2000 Republican primaries. Moreover, he broke a Republican lock on the White House known as the Red State and Blue State divide, which guaranteed more states and Electoral College votes to the Republican party than to the Democratic party. This political geography made it impossible until 2008 for any northern Democratic presidential nominees like Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and even a southerner like Al Gore, to win the presidency. All of these things were swept aside, as the senator in his very first term became the victor in the nation's 56th presidential election. The glass ceiling for African-American candidates was finally shattered after 225 years. And to ensure this victory, Obama ran nearly flawless primary and general election campaigns. Nothing like this has ever been seen. It was such a model campaign that it is sure to become the standard.

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The Idea of a Victory

Born as a strategic politician, Obama, while he was still a state Senator, described himself as a human being who was imperfect in his book, The Audacity of Hope. One of these imperfections he characterized as chronic restlessness. He attributed this disposition to his desire to both live up to his father's expectations and make up for his father's mistakes. He goes on to explain in The Audacity of Hope the ways in which he has followed the path of most politicians who invariably experience the caution associated with seeing younger versions of themselves succeed where he had failed, moving at a faster pace, and getting more accomplished. The pleasures of politics, including working the crowd, connecting with voters and potential supporters, and engaging in heated debates with a range of opponents, swept him from his safe state Senate seat into a losing congressional campaign and on to a successful race for the U. S. Senate. In turn, this laid the foundation for a model race for the presidency.

Of his drive to be a "great president," his Kenyan half sister, Auma Obama, reports that her brother is driven by the same perfectionism and ambition that overtook their father's life. His Indonesian half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, declares that her ambitious brother was compelled to leave Hawaii, in part because of the isolated atmosphere of the Pacific Islands. And his first biographer, journalist David Mendell, has called attention to Obama's abundant confidence and carefully describes his innate drive to reach the top in politics. Thus, from all of his up-close and personal observers, along with his own self-evaluation, we learn that politics is something at which he could not only succeed, but also excel. But this is nothing new because all of the major academic and scholarly studies on politicians and ambition have long since the sixties discovered that ambition is an inherent quality that drives successful politicians.

Nevertheless, ambition is not all personality and outstanding people skills. There is also the political context variable. Ambitious politicians must find a way into the electoral and political arena. Eventually, they must acquire a constituency within some political base. Interestingly, once out of Columbia University, Obama began working at the grass-roots level by becoming a community organizer. …