In the beginning of his New York article called “Obamaism,” Kurt Andersen writes that “for those of us born since World War II, never in our adult lifetimes has any single event made us prouder of our country — and for those of us who live in this city, never have we felt more completely in sync with it.
“We’re all Dorothy, stunned at having just stepped out — tripped out, one might even say — from a half-wrecked black-and-white reality into a strange and glorious new Technicolor world.
“Up till now, our country’s big, official civil-rights milestones had consisted of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Fourteenth Amendment, Brown v. Board of Education, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. But compared to all of those rungs up the ladder, electing Barack Obama was by far more democratic. It was done not by presidential or judicial edict, nor by some hundreds of worthies voting in their legislative chambers, but by means of a secret ballot in a popular national referendum with a historically huge voter turnout.
“Paradoxically, he was elected both because he was black and in spite of being black. A hypothetical 100 percent white Obama certainly wouldn’t have generated the same excitement among his white supporters (let alone the black ones), and probably wouldn’t have won the Democratic nomination. Yet it was precisely because Obama’s blackness came to seem so secondary to his being and his candidacy that he was able to attract a sufficient number of voters to elect him. He’s black! But he also just happens to be black. We need a new phrase for this happy converse of Catch-22.
“Even before he takes office, there is one large, low-hanging fruit that Obama is harvesting already: The rebranding of America in the rest of the world is under way. Intolerant, ignorant, bellicose cowboy-America is suddenly…not. And thanks to overwhelmingly white America, as Tunku Varadarajan wrote on Forbes.com, ‘a black man will be the most powerful person on earth’ and ‘the most powerful black man in the history of mankind.’ Also? His father was actually African. Foreigners are even more astonished than we are.
“But the election happily overturned another set of conventional wisdoms that were not specifically racial: Reason and intelligence made a comeback against the heretofore ascendant forces of the idiocracy. For the moment, America is reality-based once again.”