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Although exactly one year has passed since the 2008 presidential election, political scientists are still busy examining the finer details of President Obama’s success.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University, discussed the roles that race and youth grassroots organizing played in the election in Claudia Cohen Hall last night. The event was part of the United Minorities Council’s Unity Week, which runs through tomorrow.

Harris-Lacewell began her presentation with the claim that Obama’s victory did not represent an inauguration of American racial shift. Rather, she said, his success was a product of a “quirky” set of circumstances that occurred in 2008 along with the racial progress of the past 200 years.

However, she acknowledged that Obama should still be applauded for redefining the image of the typically tall, white American president. For any politician, challenging the norm and resolving the cognitive dissonance of the American people is not an easy task, she added.

Harris-Lacewell explained that Obama essentially reshaped the scope of campaigning through technological advances and strong connections with America’s youth.

In contrast to the less technologically savvy John McCain, Harris-Lacewell emphasized, Obama’s modern campaigning techniques were far more effective. She claimed that vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was McCain’s most brilliant campaigning strategy, but the same online devices that built the Obama platform up brought Palin down through widespread criticism.

Though these advances posed new rules and challenges to the campaign, without his Facebook page, tweets and text messages Obama would never have been able to grip young Americans with nearly as much efficacy, she said.

According to Communication professor John Jackson, Harris-Lacewell’s “brilliant” insight, combined with the intriguing subject matter of her presentation made her the ideal speaker for last night’s event.

“She’s brilliant, funny and I learned a lot from her discussion of the centrality of youth and technology,” said Annenberg doctoral candidate Khadijah White. “I’m sorry that anyone missed it.”

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