The New Century:
The Obama Years
America in 2008
We should begin by noting the material conditions in 2008 that were to become a part of that campaign.
- The Great Recession. The economy was in free fall beginning in late 2007. There was a near collapse of the global financial markets. Particularly hard hit was the housing sector in the United States when the mortgage market that supported purchase of homes began to fail. The contraction of the US economy and the growth of unemployment followed. In the 4th quarter of 2007 the gross domestic product declined .2 percent, thus beginning the statistical definition of recession. In December 2007 the unemployment rate in the United States began to increase, increasing from 4.7 percent in November 2007 to 6.8 percent by November 2008.
- The Wars. The United States had troops in two war zones in 2008. The War in Iraq had reached levels of unpopularity (In December 2008, according to a ABC News, 64 percent of the public believed the war in Iraq was a mistake. Support for the war in Afghanistan remained at about 68 percent in late 2008 (Gallup poll).
- An African American Candidate. It is also important to note that a racial divide continued within the American population. Advances since the Civil Rights era had increased acceptance of political and economic rights for African Americans, but the full integration of Euro-American and African American cultures had not been achieved.
The End of the Conservative Coalition?
Just as the New Deal came at a time of economic crisis, and the rise of Conservatism in 1980 came at a time of failure for the New Deal rhetorical motive, the question of the hour was whether the rhetorical motive of the Conservative Coalition was at an end in 2008. Was there a new coalition forming with Obama as its center?
The speeches we will study will ask this question in one form or another. How is Obama trying to build his coalition in the same way that we watched Reagan build his?
- In addition to asking how the Philadelphia speech addresses the problem of race, ask how it relates to the building of a coalition.
- How does the election night speech relate to the building of a coalition?
- How does the second Inaugural Address mirror Reagan's and Roosevelt's in building a political coalition?
Here are some key figures from the 2012 election indicating where Obama's coalition might lie:
- The young
- 18-29 year olds: 60% Obama, 39% Romney
- 30s: 55% Obama, 42% Romney
- Non Whites
- Whites: 39% Obama, 59% Romney
- African Americans: 93% Obama, 6% Romney
- Hispanic Americans: 71% Obama, 27% Romney
- Asian Americans: 73% Obama, 26% Romney
- Lower Income Americans
- < $50,00 per year: 60% Obama, 30% Romney
- City Dwellers
- > 500,000 population: 69% Obama, 29% Romney
So, what will the Obama coalition look like? How does he rhetorically construct it.