Cos and effect: Did Bill Cosby pave the way for Obama’s election?

While there was all sorts of talk before last week’s election about a potential "Bradley effect," a much lower vote for Barack Obama than might be expected based on pre-election polling, there was little evidence of it as the Illinois senator rolled to a decisive victory. Now, as pundits trot out all sorts of theories to explain the election of the country’s first African-American president, one notion making the rounds has been dubbed "the Huxtable effect." 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

ConversationCoined by New Mexico writer (and one-time Boston Globe reporter) Alisa Valdes, the term refers to the top-rated NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, which aired for eight years starting in 1984 and featured Bill Cosby as Dr. Cliff Huxtable, father of five in an upper-middle-class black family in New York. Valdes argues that the enormous popularity of the show, which eschewed a focus on race in favor of chronicling the everyday ups and downs of a successful, all-American black family, helped ease the way for white America to be comfortable, two decades later, voting for an African-American for president. The idea has now received lots of play in the press, including stories in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

The current issue of CommonWealth magazine features an interview with Cosby and Harvard child psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, with whom he recently authored a book on the crisis facing poor black communities. Cosby, a western Mass. resident, claims no credit for Obama’s rise, but he and Poussaint do applaud the speech Obama gave this year on Father’s Day, which echoes many of the themes of personal responsibility they have been sounding.

Photo of Bill Cosby by Bill Brett, from CommonWealth magazine.