In the wake of Tuesday’s stunning upset in Massachusetts, Democrats are scrambling to reassure themselves that Barack Obama’s first year in office was merely a rough patch in what history will remember as a successful and historic presidency. Obama’s first year has been rife with successes and historic moments alike: his election as first African-American President of the United States is of course a moment to recognize. However, Obama’s year of historic moments--from the multi-billion dollar stimulus package to the legislative maelstrom that is health-care reform – has been pockmarked with firsts that are, in reality, not so historic.
- Historic protection of the American people against insects: While past presidents have taken legislative measures to manage the safety of the American people from pests and pesticides alike, Barack Obama is the first President to actively take the fight to the insects themselves.
- Historic use of new media technology: Roosevelt had his fireside chats, Reagan his hand-written letters to friends, enemies, and citizens alike: Barack Obama has Facebook. And Twitter. And YouTube. The Obama campaign was certainly notable for its utilization of online communication and social media networks for fundraising, and Obama made “digital history” with his first personal tweet on Jan 18th, 2010. Unlike the moon landing, children and grandchildren will not be asking where we were when Obama first tweeted (we hope).
- Historic 'beer summit' on race relations: On July 20 2009, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates accused Cambridge police officer James Crowley of racial profiling after Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct at his residence in July 17. After chiding the Cambridge police on July 22, President Obama invited both Crowley and Gates to the White House for an excessively covered “beer summit,” where the three (along with Vice President Biden) could discuss the issue. More of a publicity stunt than a Montgomery bus boycott, this historic beer summit remains a hangover that Obama would probably like to forget.
- Historic receipt of Nobel Peace Prize: While Obama is certainly not the first U.S. President to receive the Nobel (and certainly not the first as a wartime president thanks to Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 Korean excursion), he is certainly the first to win the illustrious prize after less than a month in office. Obama’s acceptance stirred up significant controversy and fueled partisan fervor for weeks.
- Historic use of the phrases 'historic' and 'unprecedented': In November, Politico’s Carol E. Lee observed that Obama’s heightened awareness of his historic regime is historic itself. The President has a penchant for titling everything as ‘unprecedented,” from his efforts on science research, his plan for the auto industry and his administration’s ethics, transparency and accountability guidelines. Unfortunately, such a tactic is not as historic and unprecedented as most may think: Lee writes that “Andrew Jackson was the first president to use the word “unprecedented,” in 1831, according to a search of the archives of The American Presidency Project. For more than 100 years afterward, presidents used the word “unprecedented” in 72 speeches and mostly reserved it for major addresses.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.