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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

2008 Election Roundtable

We hardly need to mention how exciting, important, emotional, and historic the 2008 presidential election was for Americans and indeed citizens of the world. As the global economy shuddered and slumped into a severe recession, Americans fought two wars abroad and debated the future of national security, healthcare, energy policy and education. Barack Obama’s election heightened expectations—as well as anxiety—about the direction of American politics and public life in the coming years, and the Boisi Center invited its crack team of political analysts to make sense of it all. 

Alan Wolfe joined his BC political science colleagues Kay Schlozman and Marc Landy for the event. The panelists agreed that Obama’s election demonstrated important social progress with regard to racism, though they were less satisfied that Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential bid represented a blow against sexism. Schlozman argued that, despite Obama’s commanding win in the electoral college, it is simply too early to tell if a major electoral realignment is in the works. Landy deftly parsed exit polling data, which Wolfe also cited while lamenting the apparent racism revealed in the strong rejection of Obama in counties of the former Confederacy. Wolfe wondered aloud whether the Republican Party that reemerges following this thorough defeat will be more conservative (and primarily Southern) or more moderate. The ensuing conversation with the audience added issues of immigration, gay marriage, media coverage of religion, Obama’s reputation abroad and Rahm Emanuel’s selection as White House Chief of Staff. It was, unsurprisingly, a spirited discussion.