This morning, in the wake of Obama’s historic victory, the BBC rounded up some its go-to American history experts — a troupe that included Columbia’s Simon Schama and Harvard’s Niall Ferguson (also an early McCain adviser) — to discuss the implications of the race and the results.
The 9-minute discussion concluded that while Obama will have his hands full with a broken economy, two wars and no money to spend, his eloquence can become a tool to boost confidence among the American people, just as FDR and PrezBo were/are able to do in their fireside chats.
He will, however, also have to be a “flinty pragmatist” and be as disciplined in his governing as he was in his campaigning. What was most interesting was the way that Schama and Ferguson (as history professors are wont to do) situated Obama in the context of the New Deal and the Civil Rights movement to illustrate the importance of this moment in the American legal system. If Schama is right that Obama can do what FDR did in the Depression, then, he concluded, the electorate has made a wise choice in selecting its President.