OBAMA-CLINTON Ever Shifting Epistemologies

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[Elections 2008: Commentary]

The word epistemology is derived from two Greek root words meaning to know and to understand. 

It is also a field of study that closely examines the basis of knowledge with an emphasis on what is valid and true. Since his initial announcement for the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama with his emerging mantra of "Yes We Can" change the system that is at worst a phonetically laden campaign which continues to defy all previously known parameters of what was deemed possible for an inexperienced junior senator from Illinois. 

Obama also adroitly possesses an ever adaptable Africanist insider-outsider identity that waxes and wanes upon command. Branded early on nationally with a more regal front-runner status, Hillary Clinton successfully continues to morph herself as a New Yorker-Southerner, seasoned politico, underdog, feminist-working class champion and a candidate whose public persona is far greater then the sum total of her multi-textured marriage to popular Democratic native son and former president William Jefferson Clinton.

What is really interesting to bear witness to is how both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are regularly able to recast and transcend the limits that potential voters might place upon themselves given the accumulation of the battle wounds that they have both amassed in an increasingly bloody sparring match for the eventual Democratic Party's presidential ordination.

The Obama-Clinton enigmatic duo is an ever combative tag team that has consistently been able to galvanize voters to flood their polling places in record numbers. All over America, the Democratic party's faithful choir and an ever growing newly democratically evangelized flock of voters, whether depicted in cozy town hall meetings or shown in huge standing room only amphitheaters, all appear to be organically connected to the theatrically inspired and retooled vision of the American Dream.

As a neo-soul oriented faculty member who has for many years been urging students at a local liberal arts university to explore the deeper meanings found beyond the socially constructed modernist notions of identity, race, gender, social class and even the shifting nature of American politics; these are prolific times to be pushing the discourse about the construction of electoral realities and to synthesize the themes and actual meanings of the two democratic presidential campaigns as they are experienced in real time.

As I sit here at twenty minutes past midnight, dutifully staring at the television screen and listening to the various pundits presented on the eve of Tuesday's election result-realities, "Hillary Clinton has just taken Rhode Island and Ohio, while Barack Obama has won in Vermont." Texas remains vexingly "too close to call" for the neatly combed gray haired male talking heads.  The arguably viewed post-modernist voting results so far yielded by the sum total of states that have voted in the Democratic Party's elections continue to force Americans to think beyond the traditionally more simplistic and even erroneous theories that have been presented in the past as partial explanations for electoral life in America.

Each day many Americans and other members of the electronically astute world are finding out that there are severe paradigm shifts to apply to what they had previously clearly understood only twenty-four hours earlier.  The nature of truth related to who votes for whom in America moves in another direction once again. The no longer quantifiable reality and stalwart beliefs held even moments earlier about exit polls, gender roles, social class voting patterns, age cohorts, and the voting allegiances of white, African American and Latino voters have all changed. This newly emerging knowledgebase about America not only debunks the old markers that were used yesterday, it champions a new tipping point in America they we have likely quietly crossed into years ago in this formerly "red state blue state" oriented society .

As one who regularly champions the notion that his students should tenaciously deconstruct the seemingly trite aspects of  the American "melting pot," and other fictionalized Eurocentric pluralistic narratives, it seems like it is now time to recast or dare I say to even re-explore what it means to be an American today in the twenty-first century. The "Color-line" analysis popularized by the late sociologist Dr. W. E. B. Dubois at the dawn of the twentieth century implied that the mandatory redemptive work required for the construction of a better America meant significant social changes.

In order for the true application of the old school democratic rhetoric created by sexist, capitalistic, and slave holding founding fathers to become an actualized Democracy for all of its then citizens, America had to work harder to live up to the claims made by these forked tongued politicians who sought to appease various stakeholders in the then emerging states under the developing U.S. Constitution.

As I awakened to the glare of the television screen on Wednesday morning, Hillary Clinton reigned victorious in Texas by a "small" margin and she championed her newly acquired three state win as the continuation of a reframed "comeback campaign." Seconds later, Barack Obama appeared on the screen simultaneously triumphant, retorting Hillary Clinton's analysis of the dawn of the electoral outcome by restating the point that ultimately it's all about "the final delegate count."

With a cool pose-like verbal cadence, Obama declared that an ultimate "promised delegate" count would happen by the time the faithful march with him to the promised land of the National Democratic Convention.

As both of the candidates' campaigns move swiftly towards my home state of Pennsylvania, neither space nor time will afford me the opportunity to continue to extrapolate further about the colorful word play, metaphors and comparisons that are being applied to and by both Obama and Clinton today. I do however express great joy that for now, the ever emerging epistemologies of their unique presidential campaigns shall continue.

Given the seven years plus rule under President George W. Bush, and his questionable initial rise to power over the now Oscar award winning Al Gore whose campaign was then dubbed "Hanging-Chad Gate" or the "U. S. Supreme Court Debacle;" I welcome the opportunity for Democrats to continue to publicly battle amongst its own clan as only incestuous family members can do; knowing that they will remerge as a unified family at some later point to do battle with the Republican parties' shifting epistemological stepchild, Senator John McCain.

Richard M. Cooper, Ph.D. is a member of the Social Work faculty of Widener University and is a talk show host on 900 AM WURD radio station in Philadelphia. He can be contacted via email at


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