The Conversation

President Obama Celebrating the 4th in a Tricorner Hat

This photo was published by the Hyde Park Herald on July 11, 2001. Then State Senator Barack Obama was participating in an annual parade called "4th on 53rd" in which politicians from the neighborhood march in costume.

Last year we published a similar photo of Obama from the 1997 4th on 53rd parade. That year he wore a regimental coat and, in the photo, carried the tricorner hat in his hand. It's likely that then State Senator Obama participated in the event every year but those two instances are the only time his photo made the Herald.

During the first two years of his administration the Tea Party was a regular target of opportunity for Democrats. They were particularly mocked, by Bill Maher and others, for dressing up in revolutionary war costumes. As I noted last year, the NAACP report on the Tea Party even singled out the wearing of costumes as a sign of "over-arching nationalism":

The Revolutionary War-era costumes, the yellow “Don’t tread on me” Gadsden flags from the same era, the earnest recitals of the pledge of allegiance, the over-stated veneration of the Constitution, and the defense of “American exceptionalism” in a world turned towards transnational economies and global institutions: all are signs of the over-arching nationalism that helps define the Tea Party movement.

Even as the Tea Party became his party's chief opponent in the battle over health care and the 2010 elections, President Obama never mentioned that he had repeatedly worn similar costumes to celebrate America's history. However, about six weeks after we published the 1997 photo he did mention it in an appearance in Parma, Ohio.


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