Electing the First African American President


After 220 years of presidential elections, in 2008, the 44th president of the United States of America was the first African American, Barack Obama. Among factors including a well run campaign of “Yes We Can” and “Change We Need”, and the country blaming the Republican party for economic issues, Obama had the American news media wrapped around his finger.

Barack Obama was boldly referred to as a “modern-day messiah” on multiple occasions. At one point during his campaign, Oprah Winfrey stated “I am here to tell you, Iowa, he is The One… He is The One – Barack Obama!”(206). This was very influential because Winfrey at the time, was a major source of news for TV watching Americans. Internet sources like Politico backed Obama for many reasons including his knowledge of technology and support of the press. This created a bias when it came to the election and campaign including talking up Obama’s running partner and only reporting on weaknesses in the McCain and Palin team. It is often referred to in the chapter by Streitmatter, that journalists often failed to detach themselves from him. Instead of observing him through the eyes of professional journalists, they were looking at the campaign from the perspective of another engaged citizen.

Two weeks post election, Howard Klutz of the Washington Post made a statement about the downside of the favorable press Obama received throughout his campaign trail. Klutz said that the press had set its expectations too high for the new president. After this opinion piece, the press as a whole took a sharp turn and begin to criticize the president. The New York Times who has supported Obama released the statement “He may not always be as good at everything as he thinks he is.” after the rollout of Obamacare. This is not an uncommon trend for the press to highly criticize presidents when they do not come through on all of their campaign promises, but it was escalated with the Obama administration because so many Americans felt personally let down. Many papers and websites including The Post and Newsday rallied against re-election based on the unfulfilled promises of the Obama campaign agenda. A campaign that the same news outlets supported back in 2008.

Key Terms/people:

  • Reverend Jeremiah Wright: Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago- who Obama described as a mentor. Conflict involving Wright could have negatively affected Obama’s campaign if it wasn’t for American journalism downplaying the issue.
  • John McCain: Republican nominee that was running against Barack Obama in 2008
  • Joe Biden: Democratic candidate withdrew January 3, 2008 and Obama chose him to be his Vice President. The media favorited Biden and embraced him as a running mate.
  • Hillary Clinton: Democratic candidate withdrew on June 7, 2008 and supported by Barack Obama in 2016
  • Mitt Romney: Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 election
  • Messiah: leader or savior of a particular group or cause.
  • Oprah Winfrey: American media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer and philanthropist
  • Michelle Obama: The First Lady of the United States whose campaign for health in America called “Let’s Move” was one of the most successful First Lady issues to be addressed

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why did so few African American candidates run for office before Barack Obama was elected in 2008? Why do you think it took so long for us to have an African American President? What specific qualities did Obama portray through his campaign that allowed him to achieve the presidency?
  2. Since they both used technology and social media to their advantage, if Obama were to have run against Trump in 2016, instead of running 10 years ago, what do you think the outcome would be?
  3. The media can affect a presidential candidate in positive ways by helping them spread their message as well as making followers feel more of a personal connection with them. But, in what ways can the media kill a president’s campaign and administration rather than help bring it alive?


Photo Credit:

EPA. President Barack Obama Takes the Oath as the 44th U.S. President with His Wife, Michelle, and Daughters by His Side at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2009. Washington DC, 20 Jan. 2009.

“The 50 Best Joe Biden Memes.” Inverse, Washington DC, 23 Mar. 2018, http://www.inverse.com/article/23764-best-joe-biden-memes.

Chi, Phil. Oprah Winfrey on Obama. 9 Dec. 2007.

Special Star Looks. 19 Jan. 2017.


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