Reflecting on Obama’s victory, scholars say the historic victory leaves a great deal room for political scientists and others to consider in analyzing the Illinois senator’s dramatic ascent in national politics.
“It’s very remarkable that someone with very limited experience on the national scene was able to become the (Democratic party) nominee and to do as well as he did in the polls. That part is remarkable,” says Dr. Steven Taylor, an associate professor of government at American University in Washington, D.C.
“It’s been a long time since you’ve seen somebody that’s been on the national scene as a senator or who’s been a governor or held a statewide office for such a short period of time,” achieve Obama’s level of political success in a first-time run for the U.S. presidency, according to Taylor, who is Black.
Taylor, a specialist in urban politics who also examines race and ethnicity, says political scientists like him will be looking closely at the national vote to see how Obama performed in cities whose politics have been defined by ethnic coalitions. They will also examine his historic win in the Democratic primaries, he notes.
“First of all, I think one thing that people might look at is how he was able to build up momentum for his candidacy. That’s one of the things — that somebody who was not the favored candidate was able to gather enough momentum and become the nominee. That’s something political scientists will look at and how it happened — how he was able to get a bandwagon rolling in his favor,” Taylor says.
Some scholars say understanding Obama’s success as a political organizer will be critical to assessing yesterday’s victory. “I think Barack Obama learned a good lesson during the time he spent in Chicago (as a young man). He was a community organizer in Chicago. And I think the key to Obama’s ability here (in his presidential candidacy) — and there are several keys here — but I think first and foremost are his organizational skills. And it’s not just Obama, but the team he’s put together,” says Dr. Dewey Clayton, a professor of political science at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
Clayton, who is writing a book about Obama’s political career and presidential run, compares Tuesday’s victory over Sen. John McCain to his earlier defeat of Sen. Hilary Clinton during the Democratic party primaries. Campaign organization was an enormous factor in both victories, according to Clayton, who is Black.
“One way they were able to beat Hilary Clinton in the primaries was clearly by being better organized and having teams on the ground and being very disciplined,” he says.
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