President Barack Obama is not in office to help solely the African-American community; he is, of course, the president of all of America. But, when Obama entered the White House in 2008, many African-Americans were heavily invested in the success of his administration and believed in the hope and change that he promised during the campaign. Obama represented a relief from a Bush administration that seemed to turn a blind eye to the plight of minorities — a sentiment that was cemented after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. So after Obama’s inauguration, many minorities expected that they would immediately benefit from having the first African-American president in office.
Almost three years later, it boggles my mind that the demographic that helped the president reach office find themselves no better off than they were before Obama took office, and seem to be suffering the most in this fledgling economy. The African-American community is suffering more than any minority group in America, disproportionately disadvantaged in today’s economy, due to a 16.2 percent unemployment rate and irresponsible predatory lending.
Until now, most blacks have remained loyal to the president and Obama’s approval rating remains high. But, some prominent figures in the African-American community, including Cornell West and Tavis Smiley, have been heavily critical of the president’s handling of minority issues.
Will Obama be able to retain his support from African-Americans in the upcoming election cycle? For Obama to have any hope of a second term, he is depending on black and minority voters to replicate the same excitement and turnout in the same numbers as in 2008. But, as the economy continues to struggle and those who thought things would change for the better continue to suffer, it will be a challenge to get minority voters to the polls in 2012.
The Obama administration must place a greater focus on black and minority voters through 2012. Only by expanding job training programs, increasing investments in inner city improvements, and cutting as little as possible from the programs that benefit the poor and middle-class will the Obama administration be able to convince them to continue to believe in the hope and change that got him into office.
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