Dominion of New York


November 7, 2012

The Meaning Of Obama’s Victory

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Written by: Kelly Virella

Mitt Romney and Ann Romney wave to supporters attending one of their campaign’s last rallies. Photo courtesy of Flickr/

political scientist?

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Just as Phillips predicted, the strategy delivered federal electoral dominance to Republicans through the start of the 21st century. But now it is on life support, courtesy of Barack Obama.

When Chicago’s first black mayor Harold Washington figured out how to assemble a progressive coalition of wealthy Chicago whites and people of color to win his office, he created a blueprint that Obama has used to fundamentally alter the political playing field of this country.

Twice now, the President has won office while losing virtually every Southern state, proving that his 2008 triumph over the Southern strategy was not a fluke. The progressive, multi-racial political coalition that delivered him his victory could enjoy several decades of electoral dominance because the browning of America will only strengthen it.

The Southern strategy is all but dead. Like the Wicked Witch of the East, she is lying under a giant house that fell on her during last night’s electoral tornado, her feet visible, possibly twitching, but soon to lie motionless. As Thomas Schaller, a political scientist, who the New York Times reported, prophesied America’s new political alignment said of the Southern strategy, “I think that’s absolutely over.”

I don’t care how Republicans try to spin this victory, because I’m done trying to rationally explain to them why we matter and why racism is wrong. If they choose to continue the race-baiting tactics that are driving them out of power, it will only accelerate their demise. The faster their party perishes, the better.

When Obama won the election in 2008, I really wasn’t that excited.

Part of me didn’t want to invest too much emotion in him, because I didn’t know what it meant. I thought he might be quickly assassinated and I suspected that he would govern much further to the right than I’d like. He seemed like a good man, and I recognized that he broke an important racial barrier. But I thought the 2008 election was mostly a victory for him, one that raised his star and earned him a place in history books. I feared that his victory came from a once in a life-time political alignment, a sort of political Haley’s Comet, consisting of an unstable multi-racial coalition forged by a weak Republican candidate John McCain.

Last night’s victory proved that I was wrong.

Obama’s most important contribution to American history won’t be that he broke a racial barrier by being the first black President. It will be that he broke the back of a vicious racist political strategy, by showing lovers of truth and justice a path for uniting. We aren’t singing Kumbaya, because the work that we must do — the laws we must change — hasn’t even begun. But we are saluting the President and saying well done.



About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


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