January 20th is Inauguration Day for President Barack Obama, and Professor Andrew William Smith will certainly be among those celebrating this historic occasion. The editor at Interference.com, Professor Smith wrote on January 19th that “When U2’s anthem “Pride” first brought tears to my idealistic teenage eyes in 1984, I never imagined I’d watch the band perform the song on a January day on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial just hours before the inauguration of America’s first black president.”
“While I believed then and now in dreaming the impossible, I never imagined this day would be possible in my lifetime.”
The Tennessee Technical University (TTU) professor was just as enthusiastic during his speech on December 29th. He told a Modern Language Association (MLA) audience that “Back in early January  Barack’s speeches packed an emotional spell that left me spellbound and speechless.”
Professor Smith continued, “Instead of investigating the intellectual blind-spots that left me so vulnerable to these political sermons, I watched myself leave the apartment one Saturday morning to meet the local Obama supporters at a coffee house, to go door to door in the neighborhoods near my campus, canvassing for Obama, seeking support for the upcoming Tennessee primary.”
Abandoning objectivity in his “scholarly” presentation—which is typically expected for these panels—Professor Smith said that his “talk’s going to be fairly unconventional for a scholarly talk…and what happened when I actually sat down to write the paper, the paper itself sort of got swept up into that rhetoric and so as much as I will be analyzing the rhetoric of a particular moment in the campaign which is sort of the creamy center of my talk, the actual talk itself is in the rhetoric of the campaign.”
Large portions of his speech involved ruminating on his reactions to the campaign season. “While I am still more leftist than liberal, more radical than reformer, how did I get here to this big tent of hope with a political hero at the helm?” he asked.
(This was apparently a move right for Professor Smith).
He described how 2008 embroiled him in campaigning. “In retrospect, I do not think that the hours I spent thinking about, praying about, or working on his campaign were in any way a waste even though in Tennessee we lost the Democratic primary to Hillary and the general election to McCain by decisive margins both,” he said.
Smith later added,
“The pathos of the positive purified my own cynicism about people and place, about these people, this place. Yes we did. Yes we did scream and dance and shout. Some of us we got kicked out of a hotel in Cookeville, Tennessee around midnight, as I felt like the salt in Jesse Jackson’s tears. Yes we did watch Youtube videos of spontaneous street parties all over the world and country that resembled nothing we’d ever seen before: a global gasp of relief, a global gust of generosity being bestowed upon citizens of an empire that had recently lost global favor. Yes we did…I remember saying that I did not want to wake up on November 5th and be sentimental about how good it felt back in February before it all fell apart, when we still had hope. So we joined a nation and world on November 4th with our tears and our cheers, our chanting and our dancing.”
“When I recall that moment, that magic it still comes back despite the current and future compromises, despite my disdain for cabinet appointments or the inauguration’s invocation pastor.” Obama’s choice of Rick Warren, an opponent of gay marriage, sparked significant criticism from gay rights supporters.
“So it’s been a long eight years and I know you would never have had a commemorative edition of Rolling Stone magazine about the previous administration,” said Professor Smith; he also used a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi as a source.
Jann S. Wenner, co-founder of Rolling Stone, is a strong Obama supporter, having contributed $850 over the federal maximum to his campaigns. US Weekly, another publication owned by Wenner, published a highly-critical and misleading piece on Sarah Palin this Fall.
As Accuracy in Academia (AIA) has extensively documented, professors have a particularly strong emotional attachment to the incoming president, with some academics claiming that Obama’s victory made them patriotic for the first time in their lives and others praising Dreams From My Father as model modern literature.
Professor Smith was joined by David R. Shumway of Carnegie Mellon University, who argued that the disproportionate antipathy toward Hillary Clinton resulted partly from her attempts to establish a peer marriage between her and Bill. “While I never claim that this new conception of marriage is accepted by everyone, but rather was restricted mainly to the middle class, the extreme negative response to Hillary reveals that this emergent marriage ideal remains foreign and threatening to many Americans…,” he concluded.
“The basic problem that people have with the Clinton’s marriage is the equality of the two partners within it, that it was perceived to be a peer marriage,” he argued. “While it was and remains possible to say that a woman should not be president, as opposed to the impossibility of admitting publicly to the racist belief that an African-American should not, most Americans have gotten used to the idea of women holding high political office. But when Hillary Clinton assumed a different role than other First Ladies had, she violated a more fundamental taboo.”
In line with those who believe that opposition to Obama was motivated by racism, Professor Shumway told this correspondent, “I do think that she [Hillary] was, she became the great white hope” and “Conservatives were finally more afraid of an African-American than they were of Hillary.”
“And of course there were many people who believe that it was a Republican plot to get Hillary to be the nominee because she would then be much easier to attack once she got the nomination…and so Rush Limbaugh orchestrated a campaign to get people to vote for Hillary on those grounds.”
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.