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JUST DO IT: Notes on Politics and Race at the Dawn of the Obama Presidency

  • Howard Winant (a1)


President-elect Barack Obama will take office after a campaign that was pathbreaking on many levels. The argument here, necessarily somewhat speculative, is that Obama's management of his racial identity and of racial politics is roughly predictive of his soon-to-begin management of executive power in the United States. Obama is characterized as a “practical idealist,” a true pragmatist in the deeply grounded, philosophical (as opposed to vulgar) sense of that term. Attention is directed to the way Obama has handled or may be likely to handle the racial politics of the election itself, the ongoing realities of structural racism in the United States and the problem of exercising executive power in an endemically racial state, the role of race in national politics, and the role of race in global politics. The uniqueness of this new administration—headed by a preternaturally skilled and intellectually prepared Black politician—is not chiefly located in the symbolism of Obama's Blackness, important as that is. Rather it is Obama's formation as a Black intellectual and politician that may be expected to guide his thought and action in the White House.


Corresponding author

Professor Howard Winant, Department of Sociology, Ellison Hall 2834, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9430. E-mail:


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JUST DO IT: Notes on Politics and Race at the Dawn of the Obama Presidency

  • Howard Winant (a1)


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