Barack Obama Year in Office: the Racial Divide

Many in the black community largely saw Obama's 2008 election as the biggest civil rights victory in U.S. history. It was a moment of immense pride, not just for blacks, but for voters who participated in a such a defining moment.

"I cried that night because it was the joy of the moment and the journey," the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., told "I think many people still share that sense of joy."

"At one level it lifted the ceilings off of our ambitions," Sharpton said. "It made what seemed unattainable, attainable."

Obama's Year in Office: Lifting Ceilings or Deepening Divisions?

Though healthcare advocates say Obama's plan for reform would benefit all uninsured Americans, the very existence of his health care agenda has caused some Republicans to say he's favoring minorities. Buchanan argued the expanded coverage of uninsured people would overwhelmingly affect immigrants, and that cost would be borne by taxpayers and at the expense of other programs that benefit whites, like Medicare.

"Pat Buchanan has always represented a certain group of people who have their own interpretation as to what makes an American," U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., told "I had hoped he would have matured over the years and had a broader understanding of what made America great, but he's always had a limited view of the contributions that minorities and foreigners can and have made to this great nation."

While race remains a focus for some, as evidenced by a seemingly endless string of vicious attacks and innuendos -- even longtime Obama ally Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got snared by a race-tinged comment -- most American voters seem simply not to care about his race anymore.

Torie Clarke, former Bush administration spokeswoman, told "People who have real issues and real problems very quickly don't care" about skin color.

Clarke charged that the politicians and pundits who make statements that are obviously inflammatory are doing so in hopes of getting a reaction.

"They know how to get people excited and they know how to get attention," she said. Conversely, "I think there are a fair number of people who are involved in politics or public service who still hesitate to criticize the substance of Obama's politics, for instance, because they are afraid of being called racist."

Even the most jubiliant of supporters know that attention to Obama's skin color will never go away completely.

"I think it's healthy for Americans to be reminded that electing a president of color is a great symbolic victory, but you don't change generations of thought just by electing someone," Rangel said. "He always will be to many Americans a black president rather than a president who happens to be black."

President Obama: 'More About Direction Than Complexion'

Geraldine Ferraro, who made history in 1984 as the first major-party female vice-presidental candidate, attributed the Democratic losses in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virgnia, not to a dissatisfaction with Obama or a loss of faith among white voters, but because Obama's victory was in large part fueled by the chance to make history.

"It was an enthusiasm," she said, that just didn't carry over as voters became more entrenched in their own worries about jobs, money and medical bills.

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