African Americans Disappointed, in General, in Obama's Failure to Address Their Concerns

By Chilaka, Laura | Pasadena Star-News, June 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

African Americans Disappointed, in General, in Obama's Failure to Address Their Concerns


Chilaka, Laura, Pasadena Star-News


WASHINGTON - President Obama pleased gays and lesbians when he endorsed same-sex marriage. He thrilled women when he signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

But when it comes to African Americans, a group that gave Obama 96 percent of its votes, there is disappointment over what many believe is the president's failure to address their concerns.

With black unemployment at 14 percent - nearly double the rate among whites - and a steep rise in rise in poverty and incarceration rates, many blacks are expressing frustration at the president's leadership.

While no one expects African Americans to make an exodus to presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, there is concern among Democrats over whether Obama will benefit from as large a turnout and the same level of enthusiasm as he enjoyed in 2008.

An analysis by the California News Service shows that had blacks voted for Obama at the same rate they did for John Kerry four years earlier, Obama would have lost in North Carolina and Virginia.

African American support for the president is the highest out of any subgroup polled by Gallup at 88 percent, but it has dropped eight points since Obama took office in January 2009.

The California News analysis found that Obama would have prevailed in most swing states even with lower levels of black support. However, if the race tightens in states like Ohio and Florida, both with over 10 percent of black voters, the size of African American turnout could be crucial.

David Bositis, who studies African American voting patterns at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said Obama will need strong black support to keep several states in "the Democratic column."

Obama helped fuel high expectations among African Americans during his presidential campaign, and he received more black votes than any candidate in history.

After Obama was elected, polls showed that African Americans looked at themselves differently. A January 2010 Pew survey revealed huge optimism. The percentage of African Americans who thought blacks were better off than they were five years before nearly doubled.

Yet Obama, whether by accident or design, has not made race a focal point of his presidency.

The lack of policies specifically geared toward African Americans have many blacks - who are regarded as the most loyal Democratic constituency - angered that their votes are being taken for granted.

The frustration was piqued by the president's same-sex marriage endorsement, which did not play as well among African Americans as the rest of the Democratic base.

"I cannot support him," said Emmett Burns, an African American state legislator representing an overwhelmingly black district in Baltimore County when asked about Obama's policy on same-sex marriage. "He has taken the black vote and people for granted."

Suffering continues

African Americans have suffered in the current economy. The black unemployment rate remains higher than the national average in all 50 states, according to an analysis released by the Economic Policy Institute.

The unemployment rate among black Californians is over 20 percent, as compared to 10 percent for whites and 9 percent for Asians.

More than one-third of African Americans live below the poverty line, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And the U.S. Bureau of Justice estimated in 2008 that there were over 846,000 black men in prison, making up 40 percent of all inmates.

Obama has had few announcements aimed specifically at African Americans, though his stimulus bill gave $850 million to historically black colleges.

Many of Obama's advocates - including the president himself - say that he must be president of all Americans and not just a subgroup. …

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