Claiming that the Cosbys had an effect on perceptions of Obama is, in my mind, completely valid. People loved Bill Cosby, they loved the Huxtables. There was something that was culturally familiar to them. This was not the Jeffersons, Sanford and Son or Good Times. The jokes were not culturally specific (though there is nothing inherently wrong with that), they were universal. Family was the universal, you knew the Cosbys were black, you couldn’t deny that. The History spoken about on the show, the artwork, the music (Jazz), the guest stars, etc, all focused on their blackness. But those things were secondary; primarily the Cosby Show was about family, which everyone can relate to. Cosby himself said this,
“I would not be surprised with the comfort level of people looking at a family and not being afraid of them, and not holding them to some strange old thoughts of a nation,” he said. “It’s what people have done with themselves by watching that show and believing in it.”
I think it would be improper to deny the effect that the Cosbys had on culture. Although there were African-Americans on TV prior to the Cosby Show (including middle and upper-class Black folk), the Cosby Show was a real catalyst for change.
After the Cosby show there was a surge of Blacks on mainstream TV, in the Media and in visible politics. We can’t deny that the Cosbys have had an impact. In a documentary about the Cosby Show (which is included when you by the first season), Oprah speaks on how refreshing it was for the world to see into the life of an upper class Black family. We are perhaps out of the Cosby culture, but those young adults (35 and under) and even their parents who voted Obama were highly influenced by seeing the Cosby show. It is another part of the multicultural society we live in. We not a non-racist society, but one where various cultures can be seen (especially in pop-culture)
There are definitely other political and pop culture icons that have helped pave this road (Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Douglass Wilder, Andrew Young, Clarence Thomas, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Warren Moon, Nat King Cole, etc.). And there has been a plethora (relatively) of Blacks in prominent positions on TV. And yes, other shows, politicians, and actors influenced Cosby; there was a long road before him. But because the, Bill Cosby was the dad everyone wanted, the Cosby Show is one of the most successful TV shows ever, and the fact that America was exposed not only to an individual but a family and entire culture leads me to suggest that the Huxtables did a lot of paving work.