Richard Yeselson

Richard Yeselson lives and writes in Washington DC.

Recent Articles

Obama's Usable Past

Reading Obama as cut loose from history is incorrect. Obama's promise is not to remove us from history but rather to find a "usable past" in American ideals of equality, justice, and fraternity.

John Judis is one of our leading journalist intellectuals. His knowledge of American history and political culture is so deep and nuanced that it would put many academics to shame. How many political reporters today even know who R.W.B. Lewis is, let alone are able to frame an essay around the title of one of his most influential books, American Adam ? In that essay, the cover story of The New Republic ’s March 12, 2008 issue, Judis argues that Obama is a quintessential American figure, "making a promise to voters that is as old as the country itself: to wipe clean the slate of history and begin again from scratch." Moreover, Obama, via his exotic, mixed-race background, escapes the greatest burden of American history—race—so that "Obama is at once part of black America and also removed from it and from its political history." Obama, in Judis's account, distrusts government and political parties, too. Judis wishes Obama well, but fears that this Adam-like figure, the...