a1 Department of Sociology and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
a2 Department of Political Science, University of Chicago
Has Barack Obama's success transformed the racial divide? Did he somehow transcend or help bring to an end centuries of racial division in the United States? Did he deliberately run a strategically race-neutral, race-evading campaign? Did his race and ingrained American racism constrain the reach of his success? Have we arrived at that postracial moment that has long been the stuff of dreams and high oratory? Or was the outcome of the 2008 presidential election driven entirely by nonracial factors, such as a weak Republican ticket, an incumbent party saddled with defending an unpopular war, and a worsening economic crisis? It is at once too simple and yet entirely appropriate to say that the answers to these questions are, in a phrase, complicated matters. These complexities can, however, be brought into sharper focus.