In just 3 short hours, as I write this, Barack Obama will be sworn in as 44th President of the United States of America, ushering in a new era in more ways than I can describe. I’ll be watching the proceedings on MSNBC.
No president in recent memory has entered office with such a high approval rating (83%), but no president ever has entered office with as many hopes and expectations riding on his shoulders. He’s uniquely qualified to be the man in this time, in this place, however, and if anyone can do it, he can.
As just about everyone who pays attention probably knows by now, the Bush White House today convened a Presidents Club luncheon, consisting of the 3 surviving ex-presidents, the White House’s current occupant, and Barack Obama, who in less than three weeks will be setting up shop in the Oval Office.
I find the photo above to be fascinating as a study in body language. George W. Bush stands front and center, but seems nervously out-of-place, with his awkward smirk and cocked left foot. Barack Obama is both leaning and looking away from the current president, speaking with his father. There is a strange stiffness in his comportment, as if simply standing in close proximity to “Dubya” is creating negative energy. GHWB stands at the end, hand outstretched in mid-sentence, in a position that suggests either patting a child on the head or pushing them away.
Bill Clinton stands grinning wistfully, hands behind his back, contemplating, perhaps, his own personal history (and I mean personal) in the very room in which the five men now stand.
And Jimmy Carter knows exactly what’s on Bill’s mind.
I’ll leave you to ponder the merits, or lack thereof, of my decision to omit an apostrophe in the phrase “Presidents Club.”
I’ve been examining maps on my own and also reading commentary on voting patterns in the southern United States this year, most of which reaffirmed some not-too-surprising facts:
African-Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of Barack Obama
White voters voted substantially less for Obama than did African-American voters
Racism played a role in some voters’ decision, at least to the extent that some white McCain voters would not support Obama due to his race
As a result of these and other facts, some correlated, some not, some distinctive maps of voting patterns have emerged. One I found interesting (which I will add to this page if I can locate it) showed that while almost the entire country voted more Democratic than in 2004, there was a band through the Middle South stretching from West Virginia to Oklahoma that moved towards the Republicans.
But within the mostly “red” region of the South, there also was a smaller “Blue” band that went for Obama. And here we’re referring to actual percentages, not changes with respect to 2004 voting patterns.
Again, not a terribly big surprise. Population distribution of African-Americans is not even throughout the South; blacks tend to live predominantly in areas where cotton plantations existed during the pre-Civil War era. So, looking back into history a few hundred years, we can see that patterns of plantation distribution and the profoundly regrettable history of slavery contributed directly to the distribution of voting patterns in the 2008 election.
But it goes back a lot farther than that. Why were plantations distributed as they were? Well, that comes back to the soil — a “fertile crescent” of deep black soil through that region. And why does that soil exist as it does, in that particular configuration? This question takes us all the way back to the location of the Atlantic coastline during the Cretaceous Period, 85 million years ago. For a deeper explanation, read on.
This is something that I think is big news, but so far I’ve heard nothing about it in the “News.”
In the words of Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, from an email I received today:
The Obama-Biden Transition Project is a nonpartisan entity whose purpose is to facilitate the transition to a new government and prepare for the next administration.
In the past, efforts like these have often been very secretive and funded by the D.C. lobbying and corporate community.
But, like in the campaign, we’ve decided to do things differently.
For the first time, transition efforts won’t be financed with donations from Washington lobbyists and PACs — which means we’ll need to keep asking for your help. Your generosity during the campaign helped get us here, but building a more transparent and open government means continuing to rely on a broader group of people to do this the right way.
That’s cool, I think, and also significant. I made several donations to the campaign over the course of the year, and I’ve made a donation to the transition project, too. Donating money is the lazy way to get involved, of course, but at least it’s something. I really believe Barack Obama is committed to doing politics differently, and I believe he has the brains and the vision to make it happen. If you agree with me, here’s how you can help.
File under “Nothing New Under the Sun.” Barack Obama‘s website was a key factor in his electoral success, and the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister candidate (again) Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping to capitalize on that with a very close knockoff version of its own. Read more at the New York Times.