MacDonogh is reluctant to call people names partly because he thinks it’s inaccurate as well as being impolite, but right wing American opinion, he says, is informed by racism more than any other characteristic.
“It doesn’t mean that every individual is racist, but conservatism tends to suggest that if you’re not white you’re less American,” MacDonogh says.
“The greatest blight on America is the history of racism and slavery. That’s the historic baggage it carries with it. Even to this day you have golf courses whose history is associated with thorough antagonism to people who are not white.
“Obama is correct in saying one day we may get beyond racism in America, but that day hasn’t arrived. His election does not signal the end of American racism.”
Speaking of Obama’s proposed visit to Ireland, MacDonogh takes a pragmatic view.
“One of the things that I have found to be true is that Obama is politically cool and calculating. I think that in a personal family sense that he would be interested in his Irish background,” MacDonogh says.
“However, if he takes a trip to Ireland it may be because his advisors have convinced him there’s an electoral advantage. I don’t think he will go Ireland as president without being convinced there’s a good political reason for doing so. I don’t think he’ll be able to set aside a great deal of personal time for it otherwise.”
Obama chose to title his own book Dreams From My Father, so we simply we don’t know as much about his mother Ann Dunham, but she is an interesting character MacDonogh says.
“She was intellectually curious and very broad in her internationalism. He has said himself that he was more politically influenced by her than by anybody else,” says MacDonogh.
“From what I have been able to research about her I would see her influence on him, but I would also see that he is much more interested in power and the wielding of power and calculation. It would be wrong to call her a hippy, but she was more idealistic and less career focused. When he says she was an influence he is thinking mostly of her principled nature.”
Obama’s own multicultural, hyphenated background and the strengths that arose from it are the key to his presidency, MacDonogh says.
“Obama formulated for himself an idea that there isn’t a white America or a black America, there aren’t red states and blue states – there’s a United States and we are all part of it,” says MacDonogh.
“He had the experience of an absent African father, he lived in Hawaii and Indonesia, he had the experience of a party absent mother, he came to terms with his blackness and with his white grandparents, and he’s come through that all with a grand unifying vision. Unfortunately a lot of Americans are not as ready for that vision as they thought they were.
“We may one day be able to say his presidency helped bring about the end of racism in American, but for the moment it seems to have stimulated a nativist moment in certain areas of the country. “
Pioneers: The Frontier Family of Barack Obama, Dufour Editions $34.95.