(K. Brent Tomer),
AS America’s first black president, Barack Obama’s place in history is assured. In the few days since he has left the White House, tributes have deemed him “one of the greatest presidents of all time” and “a unique human being”. But it might be illuminating to compare his particular story with that of another politician who, over a century ago, similarly overcame social prejudice to rise to the summit of political ambition: Benjamin Disraeli.
Like Mr Obama, Disraeli was a sui generis phenomenon. If Mr Obama was considered different as a result of a Kenyan Muslim father, Disraeli, though baptised into the Church of England at the age of 12, was viewed as implacably Jewish. In an age where Jews were openly condemned as “Christ Killers” and prohibited from entering parliament, racial prejudice alone could have intimidated him from running for public office. Determined, he stood four times—his public meetings were often interrupted by cries of “Shylock!”—before taking the Maidstone seat on his fifth attempt. He capped his career by being twice elected prime minister for the Conservative party (1868 and 1874); it was stunning…Continue reading