iMpressions froM a poliTiCal presenT epilogue
Inauguration: 1569, from Fr. inauguration “installation,
consecration,” from L. inaugurationem (nom. inauguratio)
“consecration, installment under good omens,” from in-
augurare “take omens from the flight of birds, consecrate
or install when such omens are favorable,” from in- “on,
in” + augurare “to act as an augur, predict” (see augur).
—Online Etymology Dictionary
On January 21, 2009, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the forty-
fourth president of the United States of America, and the ﬁrst African Ameri-
can president, as a sign that, in his words, “all are equal, all are free and all
deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness,” and that U.S.
Americans “reject as false the choice between our safety and our founding
ideals.”1 For the briefest moment, there was a sense that the country had
been cleansed of its original and most recent sins. In Los Angeles, anger gave
way to an unfamiliar calm.
The politics of recognition at work in what promoters and cynics alike
called “the Obama Brand” was astounding. Obama’s subject formation was
unlike that of any other U.S. president. It spanned Kansas, Hawaii, Kenya,
and Indonesia; it was biracial but nurtured by middle- class Anglo Americans;
in later years it was married with radical and reformist African American po-