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The Year in Politics: Blacks Revel in the History Made in ‘08

Black America Web.com, News Analysis, Michael H. Cottman Posted: Dec 30, 2008

From coast to coast, joyous African-Americans watched history unfold in 2008 with the unprecedented election of Barack Obama, who became the nation’s first black president by offering voters his vision of hope for a better life.

On Jan. 20, the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., will culminate with a week of festivities, including the swearing-in ceremony, inaugural address, inaugural parade and a night of inaugural balls and galas honoring Obama.

The official theme for Obama’s inauguration is “Renewing America’s Promise,” which aides said underscores Obama’s commitment to restoring opportunity for Americans.

“My father almost lost his life trying to secure the right to vote for black people. This year, we saw a return on his investment,” Elsie L. Scott, president and chief executive officer for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “I just hate my parents did not live to see November 4, 2008.”

Nearly 50 years after the civil rights movement, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the Montgomery bus boycott, in a nation that once embraced slavery, Obama combined a high-tech campaign with a sophisticated, unprecedented grass-roots movement and mobilized a multicultural electorate to win the White House.

"On one hand, the symbolism of Obama's election rings loud and clear for black youth, the biggest beneficiary of his success,” Charles Ellison, chief editor of Blackpolicy.org, told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “They have a model to look to and emulate. We need that.”

“His election is also significant in the sense that it comes at a very critical economic and international crossroads for the nation,” Ellison said. “However, on the other hand, there is concern that certain people are buying into this notion of a 'post-racial' America, which couldn’t be further from the truth."

For many, Obama’s election helps lift up those who have lost hope, suffering as a result of an economic crisis many blame on President Bush. And then there is the pride of seeing a confident black man lead the nation and watch – for the first time – as a black family moves into the White House.

"The possibility of my election, says something about how far this country has come," Obama said in an interview with BlackAmericaWeb.com two weeks before the election.

"But the times are so serious right now, we don't just need symbolic victories. We need actual victories – more jobs, more people with health care, more kids finishing high school and going to college, and that's going to require a lot of hard work and coalition building and bringing the country together. That's what I want to focus on," he said.

Roger Wilkins, a retired history professor at George Mason University and an official in the Justice Department during Lyndon Johnson's administration, said Obama's election was nothing short of "miraculous," considering he started out as a virtual unknown on the national scene five years ago.

"It would be stunning for anybody to do it, and then for a black guy to do it is even more stunning," Wilkins told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

Obama, he said, ran masterful primary and general election campaigns, and the appointments the president-elect has made so far, including some former rivals, demonstrated "this man is not afraid of powerful intellects. So I hope he continues to operate on this really high..... level."

In other political developments in 2008:

- President-elect Obama tapped Hillary Clinton to become the next Secretary of State. Despite an often-contentious and brutal primary race, Clinton emerged victorious as a member of Obama’s Cabinet.

- Obama nominated four African-Americans for Cabinet posts, including Eric Holder to be the first black attorney general. Also named were Susan Rice for U.N. Ambassador; Lisa Jackson as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Ron Kirk as U.S. trade representative.

- Comments perceived as anti-American by Rev. Jeremiah Wright dominated campaign headlines, prompting Obama to give a major speech on race. Obama said he disagreed with some of his former pastor's views but did not want to disown the man who married him and baptized his children.

- Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was identified in a federal criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama. A spokesman for Jackson says the congressman has been an informant for the U.S. attorney's office in Illinois for at least a decade, and has relayed information about Blagojevich since 2006, though not in the corruption case currently under investigation.

- Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana, who was indicted on federal charges, was ousted from his New Orleans-area district. The 2007 indictment claims Jefferson received more than $500,000 in bribes and demanded millions more between 2000 and 2005, including the $90,000 found in the freezer of his Washington home.

- Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick began serving four months in jail for his part in the sex-text scandal with his former chief of staff. Kilpatrick was a rising star in politics and Detroit's youngest elected leader when he was arrested, booked, indicted and sentenced before a national audience.

- U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel of New York was embroiled in controversy stemming from allegations that he enjoyed special treatment in occupying four rent-controlled apartments.

- Sarah Palin. Need we say more?

Related Articles:

Black State Legislators Want Economic Bailout – 'In the Neighborhood'

Caregivers Brace for Economy’s Impact on Health



‘Obama Effect’ Highlights Racism in Cuba


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