Looking Backward Into the Present

Using the Popular Culture of the Past to Help Answer Perplexing Questions in the Present

Is the Cultural Background of U.S. Presidential Candidates Historically a Factor When it Comes to Presidential Elections?

In one week the United States of America will have had an historic election.   Either Sarah Palin will be the country’s first female vice president or Barack Obama will be its first African-American president.   Whether you vote Republican, Democrat or Third Party, there is no denying that it has been an exciting time for American elections. 

But how culturally significant would a Barack Obama presidency be if he were elected? It might be very significant if you subscribe to the theories of cultural historian David Hackett Fischer.  In his 1989 book, Albion’s Seed, Fischer concluded that every president except two has been descended from one or more of the four original English cultural streams (Puritans, Cavaliers, Quakers and Scots-Irish) that formed the United States of America. According to Fischer, the two exceptions were Martin Van Buren and John F. Kennedy.  Van Buren was of Dutch decent and John F. Kennedy was Irish-Catholic.  It would seem then that beyond Obama, the man, being an exceptional leader and uniquely qualified administrator, his African-American heritage would seem to be a cultural revolution.  After all, his father Barack Obama, Sr. was from Kenya. 

 

But stop the presses.  It is well known that the family of Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Durham, can be traced to one of those four English cultural streams.  Obama’s great-great-great grandfather Falmouth Kearney emigrated from Northern Ireland circa 1850 during the Potato Blight and settled somewhere in Ohio.  So ironically, Barack Obama would in fact be the twenty-fourth president of Irish/Northern Irish/Scots-Irish ancestry.  So it might be said, that an Obama presidency would be breaking one cultural stereotype while perpetuating another. 

 

In the end, however, it might be better said that Obama’s candidacy is uniquely American, the right balance between tradition and revolution that this country was founded on—neither of which are in danger of disappearing should Obama be elected. 

 

When Was Killing a Journalist Not Considered Murder? Click on Image for More Information About My Book About the Connection Between Dueling and the Origin of American Journalism

When Was Killing a Journalist Not Considered Murder? Click on Image for More Information About My Book About the Connection Between Dueling and the Origin of American Journalism

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