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Hindsight From 2020

It has been just over four weeks since the election, and like many people I have been paying close attention to the news, analyses, and commentaries as President-elect Obama assembles his cabinet and begins to elaborate his vision for governing the country. Political scientists are typically concerned with trying to understand and analyze contemporary events and issues, but Luke DuBois’s work in Hindsight is Always 20/20 has me thinking about retrospective analyses and evaluations, in particular about what “hindsight? from the year 2020 will illuminate about Barack Obama's administration and about American politics more generally.

We already know some of the many criteria upon which history will judge Barack Obama’s performance as President twelve years from now: Were his policies and programmes able to curtail the recession and credit crisis, or at least alleviate their effects? Was he able to end the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan? Was he able to achieve sustainable national security, and to do so without compromising rights and liberties at home and abroad? What were the implications of his Presidency for racial inequality and race relations in the United States? The list will undoubtedly include these and many other important questions.

As a scholar of interest groups, social movements, and of the politics of race, class, and gender, I’d like to suggest three of the issues and questions to which I will be paying attention and upon which I will likely base my retrospective evaluations of and “hindsight? about the meaning of the 2008 election from and along the way to the year 2020:

1. Did Barack Obama’s victory reflect, or perhaps portend, waning racism on the part of white voters and/or a more progressive polity more generally?
2. Did the Obama campaign lay the foundations for a durable and broadly-based progressive social movement?
3. How “intersectional? were the effects of the Obama presidency? That is, did the benefits of his victory and administration benefit and empower less-advantaged and multiply marginalized members of disadvantaged groups?

I’ll begin my next post with some thoughts about the first question.


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