“A More Perfect Union”, (A more perfect union) the speech with which Barack Obama launched his presidential campaign, is the title of the latest HBO documentary series that discovers a man’s path to power as ambitious as he is charismatic while the political atmosphere began to heat up.
“The contrast between him and the person who followed him into the presidency, Donald Trump, it’s so obvious that it is difficult not to recognize the importance of his legacy. Almost from the minute he left the White House, “he explains. Jelani Cobb, doctor in American history, writer for The New Yorker magazine and producer of the documentary.
The last few years have seen an explosion of cultural creations about the figure of the Obamas. To the best-selling book “Becoming” of former first lady Michelle, which Netflix moved to television, adds “A Promise Land”, written by Obama himself.
There is a movie about the couple’s first meeting, “Southside With You”, along with documentaries such as “Dreams of Obama” and “The Final Year” that analyze various aspects of his mandate.
And all when Obama is barely over 60 years old, just turned last week.
Still, for Cobb it made sense to bet on other production, in which he began to work since Obama left the Presidency. “We started talking about his legacy at the exact moment that Donald Trump was doing his best to try to dismantle it“, Explain.
The three parts of “Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union” (“Obama: in search of a more perfect union”) analyze the youth, the presidential race and, finally, the two terms that the former president (2009-2017) spent in the Oval Office.
False optimism about racism in the US
But before recounting the first steps of Obama, the series begins with the speech with which he presented himself to the world in March 2008, at the beginning of his campaign.
The future president appears on a plane, on his way to the Democratic Convention, finalizing the details of your writing. He kept that custom until the end of his term because he was especially meticulous with words. Some, in fact, criticized the excessive time he spent preparing his speeches.
“There is not a liberal United States and a conservative United States. There is the United States of America. There is no black America and a white America, a Latin America and an Asian America. There is the United States of America,” says one of the most famous phrases from that speech.
A text that, according to Cobb, not only demonstrated its writing skills, also his vision and understanding of racial issues “better than at any point in the campaign.”
Obama presented himself as “the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas,” raised by a stepfather and married to an African-American of slave descent. His victory, months later, awakened the illusion of a “post-racial” America that did not finish settling.
Although the electoral environment of a decade ago seems much more optimistic, politics was beginning to take over. dark and chaotic tone From now.
The most unpleasant moments
As producer of the film, Cobb hired director Peter W. Kunhardt, who has made documentaries about Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon and John McCain and who in this production reviews the most unpleasant moments of Obama’s career to differentiate it from the romantic vision of other films.
“Even early in the campaign, there were people who said he wasn’t really black,” Cobb recalls. They said all kinds of things“.
Obama had to lean on African-American leaders like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Congressman John Lewis, interviewed in the documentary, because their circle was at odds.
And outside, the Republican Party was countering John McCain’s diplomacy with Sarah Palin, the vice presidential candidate who championed a populist style who questioned whether Obama was born in the US and warned that his name was of Muslim origin.
Charismatic and ambitious
“A More Perfect Union” also portrays Obama as a man who overcame all those obstacles by determination and thanks to a blinding ambition that left many companions along the way.
Among the dozen interviewees, Lewis wept as he remembered the night Obama became president, while Wright recalls the day he called to expel him from the campaign team, the great taboo of its beginnings.
The lights and shadows of a career that made history.
The author is a journalist for EFE