‘The Filter … Is Powerful’: Obama on Race, Media, and What It Took to Win

Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic:

In “My President Was Black,” The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates examined Barack Obama’s tenure in office, and his legacy. The story was built, in part, around a series of conversations he had with the president. This is a transcript of the first of those four encounters, which took place on September 27, 2016.

Lead_960OBAMA: You know, Bill Clinton told me an interesting story. He went back to Arkansas with a former aide of his when he was governor and when he was running, who ended up running for Congress and was about to retire from Congress. This was one of the last blue dogs. And as they were traveling around ,this former member of Congress said to Bill, “You know, I don’t think you could win Arkansas today.” And he said, “Well, why not?” He says, “You know, when we used to run, you and I would drive around to these small towns and communities out there, and you’d meet with the publisher and editor of the little small-town paper, and you’d have a conversation with them. And they were fairly knowledgeable about some of the issues, and they had their quirks and blind spots, but basically you as a Democrat could talk about civil rights and the need to invest in communities and they understood that. Except now those papers are all gone and if you go into any bar, you go into any barbershop, the only thing that’s on is Fox News.” And it has shaped an entire generation of voters and tapped into their deepest anxieties …

…You know, the genius of Mitch McConnell—and to some degree John Boehner—was a recognition that if we were about to go into a bad recession and the president had come in on this wave of good feeling, Democrats control the House, they control the Senate—if he’s completely successful in yanking us out of this and cleaning up a mess a Republican president had left behind, that we might lock in Democratic majorities for a very long time. But on the other hand, if Republicans didn’t cooperate, and there was not a portrait of bipartisan cooperation and a functional federal government, then the party in power would pay the price and that they could win back the Senate and/or the House. That wasn’t an inaccurate political calculation. And they executed well, and we got clobbered in 2010. So the lesson I drew there was a political lesson. It was not a racial lesson.

More here. (Note: At least one post throughout February will be in honor of Black History Month)