Barack Obama was not the favorite Democratic Party primary candidate of the hard-core peace advocates within the Democratic Party (and duly noting that most serious peace activists are outside the Democratic Party). Hillary Clinton, who looks to be the next Secretary of State, had voted for the illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan back before Barack made it to the United States Senate. She was the presumed winner, and so kept a moderate stance on continuing the wars in order to be ready to go up against the Republican nominee. Barack kept saying "hope" and "change," and pointed to his not voting for beginning the wars (he did vote regularly to continue funding them). When he became the nominee, he not only assumed the Clinton "moderate" position but promised to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to make sure, by slaughtering even more Afghanis on their own soil, that our puppet government in Kabul would hold onto power.
But, so far, he can't claim to be as bad as Woodrow Wilson. President Wilson is one of the Presidents we are usually told was a "great" President. During his presidency the U.S. joined the great imperialist powers France and Great Britain in defeating Germany in World War I. We are told this was a victory for Democracy, even though Great Britain was demonstrably less of a democracy than Germany at that time.
U.S. historians, even those who might better be called propagandists, do not fail to mention that in the 1916 campaign Wilson sought re-election on the basis of having "kept us out of war," but then pushed our nation into the war (See Woodrow Wilson and the Lusitania [December 4, 2006]). In contrast the U.S. government is already slaughtering the innocents of Afghanistan, and note Barack Obama never promised to get us out of Afghanistan.
But there are lesser known aspects of Woodrow Wilson that will be interesting to compare with Barack Obama, the first non-white to be elected President of the United States. Notably, Wilson was a racist. A tried and true racist. Not a gun-toting, Ku Klux Klan racist, but very clear on the idea that Europeans were a superior people and that non-Europeans did not deserve full citizenship status under law. For instance, "The federal government showed little or no interest in civil rights, and indeed, Woodrow Wilson, a Southerner by birth, was only too eager to promote segregation in Washington, D.C." [p. 525, Lawrence M. Friedman's A History of American Law, Third Edition]
Moreover, Wilson's alleged love of peace is usually "proven" by his promotion of the League of Nations. While Wilson was too busy in Europe to devote America's energies to the War Against Asia, he did manage to remind the Japanese (and all Asians) that the Europeans did not consider them to be fully human. The Japanese were U.S. allies in World War I (because they wanted to grab German colonies in east Asia). They had defeated both China and Russia in earlier wars. They felt they were as civilized and capable as Europeans. The Japanese delegation to the League of Nations proposed that the Preamble to the Covenant include a declaration for "the principle of equality of nations and the just treatment of their nationals." Which, if it had passed, might have meant a gradual end of colonialism, and a peaceful Japan.
Woodrow Wilson was chairman of the committee hearing the proposal. Wanting to defeat it, he ruled that the motion could only be approved by a unanimous vote. Eleven of the seventeen nations on the committee voted for the proposal, six against, with the U.S. and the "democracy" of Great Britain not voting for it. So the League of Nations was an openly imperialist, racist organization. [Meribeth E. Cameron et al, China, Japan and the Powers, The Ronald Press Company, New York. Pages 377-379]
In short Woodrow Wilson was a disgrace. And the history of the Democratic party is disgraceful.
You can argue the Barack Obama situation two ways. Democrats like the idea that the past is no concern of theirs, that the party is what they say it is today. Forget about all those votes for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; forget the lack of protest against the U.S. paying allies to trample on the sovereignty of Somalia. Hope for a new, brighter future in which even black men, as long as they are inoffensive and have two parents with graduate degrees and somehow get themselves a degree from Harvard Law School, can become President.
Or you can ask: why would Barack Obama devote himself to the Democratic Party when he knows it is the primary racist institution in the United States? If you are going to forget the past and reform a war crimes organization, why not work within the Republican Party, which at least has the merit of having opposed slavery and segregation?
Of course, what Barack and the Democratic majority in Congress do in the next four years will at least define the true, honest, current state of the Democratic Party. Maybe it will turn out better than I think.
If this democratic republic still exists a century from now, with the same system of two-party rule, rest assured that American citizens will be told that Barack Obama was a great President. Just as they will be told that George W. Bush was a great President. No matter what Barack does or does not do in office.