ENTERTAINMENT
12/09/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bill Cosby And The Obama Effect

Some theorists argue that political and social change is preceded by shifts in popular culture. So it's not surprising that the debate has heated up over who, or what, in arts and entertainment presaged Barack Obama's election as president.

Many ideas have ricocheted around academia and the blogosphere -- from Oprah Winfrey to Tiger Woods to Will Smith to "The West Wing," to the many actors who have played black presidents, among them Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock (although not that many people actually saw Mr. Rock's film "Head of State").

But one idea seems to be gaining traction, and improbably it has Bill Cosby and Karl Rove in agreement: "The Cosby Show," which began on NBC in 1984 and depicted the Huxtables, an upwardly mobile black family -- a departure from the dysfunction and bickering that had characterized some previous shows about black families -- had succeeded in changing racial attitudes enough to make an Obama candidacy possible.

On election night Mr. Rove, the former Bush strategist, said on Fox News: "We've had an African-American first family for many years in different forms. When 'The Cosby Show' was on, that was America's family. It wasn't a black family. It was America's family."

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