After Romney NAACP Speech, Questions About His Appeal To African-Americans

“If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him.” 

With those words, Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, laid down the gauntlet. Speaking to the mostly African-American audience at the 103rdannual NAACP convention on Wednesday, Romney made it clear that he is in it to win it. Although this statement should be expected of anyone trying to get votes from a particular audience, Romney fans the flames of a burning question; Who really is the best candidate for African-Americans?

After Romney’s statement, the media erupted with questions like “Does Romney have the right to make a statement like that?” Or “Isn’t a Black president the best president for Black people?” And one question that is surprisingly hard to answer, “What has Obama really done for Black people?” Whether he knew or not, Romney stumbled into a minefield of unanswered questions that are politically and racially charged.

President Barack Obama won the 2008 election in large part to the overwhelming support of African- Americans – over 95% voted for him the last election. Since he’s been in office, however, not all of his Black supporters have felt that he has done the best for them. Obama has been openly criticized by many of the same people who fought so hard for him to get elected. This has led to concerns that the first Black president does not care for the community that helped him become president.

Based strictly on the issues, it’s a mixed bag. Although African-Americans tend to side with the Democratic Party, they are known for being socially conservative. This could mean that Romney’s opposition to gay marriage and abortion could resonate with some of the older, religiously traditional members of this group. During his Wednesday speech, Romney also reminded the crowd that the current unemployment rate for African Americans is 14.6%--higher than the national average at 8.2%.--one of the many things that Romney claims has become worse for African-Americans under the Obama administration, and a problem that he believes he could fix. However, on the subject of health care, Romney still has some work to do to get more people on his side considering that Obama’s plan could give coverage to about 16 million uninsured African Americans.

Nonetheless, many of the policies enacted while Obama has been in office have not only benefited African Americans, but also the poor and middle class alike. From the passage of his health care bill, to the successful take down of Osama Bin Laden, to his pledge to ease the burden of student loans, Obama has done a lot for all Americans – Black, White and every other color.

Beyond the issues, having an African American president makes an undeniable impact on African Americans. Having an intelligent, popular, and articulate president is a positive influence on the image of African Americans. Whether Obama’s politics make him the best president for African Americans is arguable like Romney asserts, but maybe it’s more than politics that make someone the best person for the job.