Jonah Goldberg

Neither would I. The media understandably, if tediously, focus on how Obama's presidency is a deathblow to the legacy of official discrimination and racism. True enough. But the fact that a black man can become president of the United States may also be transgressive to all sorts of more relevant racial orthodoxies on the left and in the black community.

Obama's personal example is only part of the equation. He has voiced an admirable disdain for the notion that academic excellence is nothing more than "acting white." His famous Father's Day speech in 2008 showed that Obama was willing to lend his voice to the effort to fight black illegitimacy and absentee fatherhood.

This puts Obama behind the two most important ingredients for black success, at least according to most conservatives: a rededication to the importance of education at an individual level, and the restoration of the black nuclear family.

At a more political level, a black president surely undermines the argument that American racism is so endemic that a system of racial quotas must remain a permanent fixture of the political and legal landscape.

Obama is most frequently compared to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. But he also has compared himself to Ronald Reagan, saying he'd like to be a similarly transformative leader, albeit from a different ideological perspective. Only time will tell how successful he will be on that front.

But the analogy may be apt in ways that he and his supporters may not fully appreciate. By hastening the end of the Cold War, Reagan took away the defining cause of the conservative movement. The right had other issues, to be sure. But anti-communism was the coalitional glue. And while principled conservatives were happy to trade a live campaign issue for a dead Soviet Union, the damage to conservative cohesion was real.

If Obama lives up to the dreams of his supporters in writing a new, post-racial chapter for America, he will have at once done more for America than any Democratic president in generations. But he also will have cut the knot holding much of the left together. As an American and as a conservative, I certainly hope that's the case. He's already made a good start of it just by getting elected.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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