As snow began to fall while I stood next to the National Monument waiting for Barack Obama to be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, I joked with my friend Nate that it looked as if our first black president was going to have a white inauguration. While my remark was intended to be a joke about the weather, there is a sentiment among some African-Americans that Obama has not catered much to them during his presidency.
A May 2011 article by Gary Younge entitled "Obama and Black Americans: The Paradox of Hope" points out that the economic gap between blacks and whites has grown since Obama took power. Although African-Americans are the very group most likely to support President Obama, they are the group that has done the worst during his presidency. Under Obama’s administration black unemployment, poverty, and foreclosures are at their highest levels in a decade.
While African-Americans have been suffering on Obama’s watch, Obama appears to be busy standing up for legislation to promote gay rights and defending Latino Americans. An article recently written by Shannon Travis of CNN appropriately asks in its title: “Is Obama Taking the Black Vote for Granted?” Coalition of African-American Pastors President Reverend William Owens certainly seems to think so as evidenced by his remarks, “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 ... He has met with the Latinos; he meets with everything except for the people who put him where he is."
Due to what was referred to as a scheduling conflict, Obama even declined the opportunity to show up at the NAACP convention in Houston, while his opponent Mitt Romney accepted the invitation. Did this leave a potential opening for Mitt Romney to win the vote of African-Americans?
It is nearly impossible to think that Romney will win the vote of African-Americans, and the boos he received at the convention do little to change that prediction, but his presence at the convention could sway enough black voters to reward him the presidency. In 2008, Obama won 95% of the black vote. In 2004, John Kerry won 90% of the black vote. While Obama carried other voter blocs as well, in an election as close as this year’s is projected to be Obama could need to win 19 out of 20 black votes instead of 9 out of 10. Such a difference would have most likely swung the 2004 election in favor of Senator Kerry. Although I doubt that Governor Romney believes that he has any chance at winning the black vote, I’m certain his campaign advisors have crunched the numbers and informed him the difference that swaying even a small percentage of black voters could make.
While perhaps Obama should show more attention to the African-American community, given the image black Americans have of Mitt Romney, Obama can pretty well count on their votes unless Romney stirs things up by selecting an African-American as his running mate, such as Condoleezza Rice.
Even then it is really not that likely that African-Americans will vote for a corporate mogul like Romney, who personifies the structures of privilege in our country that have made it difficult for them to have any hope of advancement. Romney certainly did not help his cause with African-Americans by pledging to repeal Obamacare.
If his threat to repeal Obamacare was not enough to turn off the black vote, then Romney’s remarks the day after speaking at the convention certainly sealed the deal. Romney told a crowd in Hamilton, Montana, “But I hope you understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from the government, tell them to go vote for the other guy- more free stuff.” The racist innuendos that are clearly seen in such a remark are not likely to be forgetting by Black Americans this November.