Under Obama, African-Americans gains ‘thin’

By Patrick Hunter Wednesday September 12 2012 in Opinion
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The formalities of the Democratic and Republican national conventions are over and the candidates have had their first consolidated airing to a national and international audience.


Over the next two months, most of us as African-Canadians will be watching the progress of the presidential election campaign in the United States. And, I dare say, most of us will be somewhat anxious about the outcome.


I will state up front, just to get it out of the way, that I still prefer the idea of a Democratic president than a Republican. So, I would prefer to see President Obama re-elected, if only for that reason. Of course, the sentiments behind that support goes deeper because of Obama’s race and ancestry.


Having said that, I know that many of African descent, both in Canada and in the United States, where it really matters, are disappointed by Obama’s performance, which I discussed in an earlier column.


In brief, for many, the performance was “same old, same old” – lots of political promises and results which did not add up. The specific needs of the Black community were ignored, in spite of the overwhelming support he received from Blacks in 2008.


Indeed, if you put together a list of rights-seeking communities, and what they have achieved under an Obama administration so far, the African-American community’s gain is rather thin – make that non-existent.


For example, the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”; the equal pay for equal work legislation; the appointments to the Supreme Court – a Hispanic-American; the recognition of U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants, and so on.


I cannot think of one specific act that was uniquely and specifically aimed at the Black community (If I missed something, please remind me).


This is not to say that many of the broader economic programs – the auto and bank bailouts, the health care reform and the support of many states and cities facing massive layoffs – did not help African-Americans.


And, I guess, that is the point. There was an expectation that there would have been a specific action that would be uniquely identified with the African-American community that an African-American president would use his powers to implement.


So, the appeal for votes in November has begun in earnest. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will be taking their message of less government spending, debt-reduction and more free enterprise to the people. Their message will entail less taxes for the wealthy, particularly corporate taxes, who are in a better position to invest in the economy and create jobs.


Obama and Joe Biden will be taking their message of continuing to enable the middle class, because it is the backbone of America.


Of course, there will be different variations on these themes to make it appealing to the voters. Along the way, the two top candidates and their running mates will debate each other, directly and indirectly. Meanwhile, the media will be tracking their every move, monitoring their ups and downs in the polls in their own race to predict the outcome.


The media will also be among the big beneficiaries as millions of dollars will be spent by the candidates to get their messages across. The industry itself prospers significantly from these episodes. It is not unlike pre-Christmas sales in the retail industry.


But will we learn anything new from this rampant over-exposure? I suspect not.


From the perspective of a non-American, the conventions were quite telling. The scarcity of Black faces among the delegates at the Republican convention was obvious, especially when compared to the Democrats’ audience. One would think that the Republicans would be embarrassed by this state of affairs, but it does not seem to bother them at all.


Most likely, we will not see the passionate outpouring of support for Obama that was so prevalent in 2008. There will be some, no doubt, but the response will be more in tune with past elections – Democrats versus Republicans. Specifically, it will be a comparison between the two candidates: who is more believable; who is more in touch with the nation’s pain, and who would be the lesser, perhaps, of two evils.


There is, of course, another factor that may figure prominently and may not have been given as much attention as it did in 2008: Obama’s race.


During the past four years, the context of racism has emerged from under the rock it hid during the last campaign and shortly after. Its emergence has been clothed in the rhetoric about Obama’s handling of the economy, apart from the numerous blatantly racist attacks through cartoons and blogs.


It will be interesting to see how the race issue is handled throughout this campaign season.



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