WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign recently launched a radio ad aimed at African-American voters titled “We’ve Got Your Back.” But will enough African-American voters have his in November?
There’s no doubt that African-Americans will vote for him in overwhelming numbers. Instead, the debate among African-Americans is whether a president who’s gone out of his way to court other groups such as gays or Hispanics with specific policies has done enough to address their unique political issues. And is it enough for them to surge to the polls again in 2012 as they did in 2008.
The jobless rate for African-Americans in June was 14.4 percent, more than 6 percentage points higher than the national average. There’s a widening gap between white and African-American wealth. Yet Obama rejects the suggestion of specific programs aimed at African-Americans, and the contrast with his recently announced support of same-sex marriage and his executive order halting the deportation of hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants strikes some African-Americans as taking them for granted.
“He can have the gay pride celebration in the White House, he can have Lady Gaga in the White House, and he’s in the White House today because of the civil rights movement and the price that was paid for civil rights,” said the Rev. William Owens, the president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, a group that opposes Obama’s gay marriage stance. “He has met with the Latinos; he meets with everything except for the people who put him where he is.”
These questions will surface again this week, as Obama skips the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People annual convention in Houston. Vice President Joe Biden will address the nation’s oldest civil rights organization Thursday instead.
Obama brushes aside questions about why he doesn’t target programs to African-Americans. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” he often says.
His message to African-American voters is that he’s delivered broad initiatives such as the health care law, neighborhood revitalization programs and money for scholarships. “He is the president for all the people, not a particular group,” said Edna Moore, an Obama campaign volunteer in Detroit.
That works for some.
“I’m disappointed with gay marriage and abortion, but I think he’s done a fine job in all other areas,” said the Rev. Keith Ratliff, the pastor of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa. “He brought most of the troops home. He dealt with terrorists around the world that other administrations couldn’t capture or kill. He’s done well and deserves another chance.”
There’s also a deep sense of loyalty and pride. African-Americans have a unique place in the American political system, suppressed then rescued by the federal government. Now for the first time they see one of their own at the pinnacle of that government.
That sentiment isn’t universal. Obama’s attention to other major blocs in the Democratic coalition stands in contrast to his approach to African-Americans, some note.
“A lot of blacks are dissatisfied with Obama, but blacks are loyal to a fault,” Owens said. “They’re just so happy to have a black president, but that black president has to live up to the same standards of a white president. Being black doesn’t give him a pass.” Read more....