When Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States four years ago, the history of the moment was obvious. But as he took the oath for his second term on Sunday, the history of that moment isn’t as obvious.
I am very curious to see how historians, say 10 to 20 years from now, will look at this moment, the inauguration of the second term of America’s first African American President.
I am curious because I think this moment goes far deeper than four years ago. In 2009, the concept of America’s first African-American President was based on a single election. I understand how that can sound obvious, but what I mean is that it could have been seen as a product of a single campaign, and a single opponent.
The fact that President Obama was re-elected showed that 2008 wasn’t simply a singular event.
Now as we look at 2013, it’s interesting to look further in the future to see the non-political ramifications of Barack Obama’s second term.
I say, “non-political” because it is easy at this point for many folks who are either at one wing of the spectrum or the other to look at the ramifications of President Obama’s second term strictly in today’s political terms. As important as discussions about health care and deficit spending are, that’s not the kind of historical importance I mean.
What I am talking about is the effects of breaking serious cultural barriers in our society. These barriers are important and often point to the next barrier to be challenged.
For example, when John F. Kennedy was elected President, many Catholics saw a major barrier broken. A significant religious stigma against Catholics was disproved when JFK was elected. Those that feared the Pope would be in charge of the country with a Catholic President were quickly proven wrong.
That proof didn’t make everyone who questioned the patriotism of Catholics to simply go away, but it went a long way to change the way religion was questioned in Presidential elections.
I think we saw evidence of that change in 2012 with the campaign of Mitt Romney. The fact that he was a Mormon truly mattered to some people. However, his religion was less of the overall picture, I think in part due to some of the barriers broken in 1960.
So what will a second term for our first African American president mean for future barriers? Does it help future racial barriers be broken? Are we closer to our first Hispanic President? Will the same progress be applied to gender issues, or is that an entirely different ceiling to break?
I certainly do not have the expertise or knowledge to answer these questions myself. And unless you know someone with a time machine, no one can truly know how this weekend’s momentous event will affect the cultural, racial, gender and other barriers that remain for future Presidential candidates.
The only thing that is certain is that history has been made, but in a totally different way than it was four years ago. And we may not know the full extent of the history made for many years to come.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.