1st Black President Wins a 2nd Term
Here's who gave it to President Obama, and what he might do with it.
It is unlikely that racially based criticism of the president will dissipate with his election. Pre-election polls signaled that this would be one of the most racially divided elections in recent memory. But according to CNN, President Obama needed to secure at least 40 percent of white voters to win re-election, which he did. If other historical examples are any indication, the president's second term could permanently alter the way Americans, particularly younger ones, view race for years to come.
After Vigdis Finnbogadóttir became the first female president of Iceland in 1980 and was re-elected, it was observed that there were young Icelandic children who grew up assuming that the presidency was a female role. Many wonder what long-term impact the re-election of a black president will have on how American children, as well as adults, ultimately view race, equality and power.
Despite the divisive nature in which both race and hyperpartisanship have clouded his first term, the president spoke of unity in his election-night speech. In addition to saying he looked "forward to sitting down with Gov. Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward," (something that I advocated both candidates offer to do), he also spoke of reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans in government.
It's worth noting that his work with New Jersey's high-profile Republican governor, Chris Christie, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy won President Obama high marks from Christie and others. Some have speculated that it won him votes with independents and others who are tired of the partisan bickering that has paralyzed Washington. "Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together," he said.
It remains to be seen whether those Republicans he reaches out to will be willing to reach back in a spirit of cooperation to work with a president newly emboldened and empowered by a commanding victory.