We have been hyping up this book for sometime now, but we think you need to know a little more than just that it mentions us. This is a must read if you want to understand why there has been such a dramatic shift in the way the political game is being played. It has simply been a long time coming, courtesy of a people who had been pushing for such a game change for a very long time. The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama is the book PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill was writing when she was moderating the vice-presidential debate. The right screamed foul of course, and threatened to get her removed from the moderating duties, but as has been the case as of late, the right lost and she stayed on. It might be good for many of them to read this book as well, especially considering the way they are treating Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Kam Williams provides this review.
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer." Barack Obama, Election Day 2008
"Barack Obama's success has changed attitudes. A majority of all voters said in a post election survey that the Obama victory would lead to improved race relations overall. [However] in four southern states - Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas - Obama did more poorly than John Kerry did four years ago... During Reconstruction, there were as many as 16 black members of
Congress, but by 1901, black Southerners had been virtually expunged from politics, even as voters… Governing is complicated, so merely winning an election does not constitute the end of the battle."
Gwen Ifill, Excerpted from pages 237-245
The day before the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin last fall, Republican operatives attempted to swift boat the Obama campaign with an October surprise suggesting that PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill should be disqualified from moderating the event. Why? Because she was working on a book entitled The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.
However, no one in the McCain camp mentioned the fact that when they had approved her participation many months earlier they had been made well aware of Ms. Ifill's upcoming literary project. But that didn't stop them from mounting a futile, 11th hour effort to turn the tide by trying to impugn the integrity of this very highly-regarded journalist. It is sad, that out of desperation, the Republicans would so recklessly play the race card to ruin the career of an African-American they knew to be non-partisan. Did they care where was she supposed to go to get her reputation back after the election was over?
Regardless, now that her literary debut has finally been published, it is clear that Gwen was, in fact, an honest broker and not a secret Obama cheerleader. And Ifill doesn't restrict herself to a discussion of just Obama, but devotes considerable attention to the recent rise of the rest of the crop of emerging, young black leaders, including Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, Tennessee's Harold Ford and many others.
More importantly, her timely tome contains a cogent, historical analysis of the evolution of U.S. politics along the color line. Curiously, Ifill indicates that what these inspired, young Democrats have in common, besides their party affiliation, is an impatience to implement a colorblind agenda decidedly different from that of the aging Civil Rights Movement generation. Ultimately, the author has some tough questions to pose, such as "What is the point of electing African-Americans to high office if their ties to the black community do not bind them tightly enough to black causes?" An added bonus is that Ifill is generous enough to include a few personal anecdotes which reveal a very likable, intimate side her fans never get to see on TV.
Did she vote for Obama? Her dedication of the book says it all: "For my parents, Oliver and Eleanor Ifill, who did not live to see the day." An excellent deconstruction of the state of American politics by a seasoned reporter with not only access to the pivotal players but also a knack for picking their brains in a way which gets to the heart of any issue.
Politics and Race in the Age of Obama
by Gwen Ifill
288 pages, illustrated