|The Democratic Betrayal of African-American Voters|
By Troy Senik
Thursday, August 30 2012
When Barack Obama was elected to the presidency in 2008, even his most voracious critics conceded that one possible benefit of his tenure in office would be a new era of reduced racial tension. It wasn’t an unreasonable proposition at the time. Born of a black father and a white mother, Obama’s public record – from his two autobiographies to his campaign speech on race in Philadelphia – displayed not only a keen sensitivity to the issue, but also a desire to serve a uniquely palliative role in the history of American race relations.
Born into the first generation of African-Americans to experience the blessings of the civil rights revolution – and possessed of a unique talent for fostering a sense of reconciliation – he seemed the ideal figure to inaugurate the nation’s first truly post-racial era.
And then he took office.
In the early days of the Obama Administration, a number of developments made it increasingly obvious that Obama would not be playing the role of the great healer. His Attorney General gave a public speech deriding the country as “a nation of cowards” on racial issues.
At one of his first White House press conferences, Obama – assuming racial profiling – said that a white Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer “acted stupidly” when he arrested a black Harvard professor for disorderly conduct at his own home (audio recordings released later revealed the professor screaming at the policeman, who was responding to a breaking & entering call).
Showing contempt for the idea of equal justice before the law, Obama’s Justice Department even decided not to prosecute members of the New Black Panther Party who stood outside a polling place in Philadelphia wearing paramilitary outfits and shouting racial slurs at white voters while one of them held a billy club.
Nor were Obama’s allies in the Democratic Party and the media particularly solicitous of racial reconciliation. As the Tea Party became a major force in American politics, liberals in the press and on Capitol Hill baselessly characterized the nationwide grassroots movement as a vehicle for racist disdain for the president, with nary a temperate word in response from the White House.
During Tea Party protests of ObamaCare, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a black Democrat from Missouri, claimed that activists spit on him, while fellow Democrat John Lewis of Georgia – a leader of the civil rights movement during the 1960s – claimed that Tea Party activists used racial slurs (when the late Andrew Breitbart offered to donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund for documentary evidence of the incident, none was forthcoming).
Even as senior a figure as former president Bill Clinton compared Republican proposals that would simply require voters to produce a photo ID on Election Day to poll taxes and Jim Crow laws.
With President Obama now trapped in an election season where no arguments on the basis of his record are forthcoming, the racial agitation has reached a fevered pitch. At a recent campaign event in Virginia, Vice President Joe Biden adopted a southern drawl to tell his audience that the Romney/Ryan ticket was “gonna put y’all back in chains.”
During GOP Convention coverage earlier this week, MSNBC’S Chris Matthews accused Newt Gingrich of implicit racism for pointing out that food stamp usage is at an all-time high under the Obama Administration (Gingrich’s response: “Why do you assume food stamp refers to black? What kind of racist thinking do you have?”).
When Mia Love – a deeply impressive Republican congressional candidate in Utah (who also happens to be an African-American woman) – delivered a rousing address at the GOP convention on Tuesday, left-wing hackers took to her Wikipedia page and inserted references to her as a “dirty, worthless whore” and a “house n*****.”
Equally disgusting, the Washington bureau chief of Yahoo! News was caught on an open microphone reacting to Mitt and Ann Romney’s arrival at the convention (which roughly coincided with the landfall of Hurricane Isaac) by saying “They are happy to have a party when black people drown.” (He was subsequently fired).
The depressing fact here is that this racial crassness seems to work for Democrats. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed Mitt Romney with an astonishing zero percent support from African-American voters. That number is likely overwrought, but the unique appeal of Barack Obama means that Romney’s final tally will still likely be in low single digits (Obama took 96 percent of the black vote in 2008).
What do black voters have to show for their support? As former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice noted in her speech to the Republican Convention on Wednesday, opening up educational choice to help minority students is “the civil rights issue of our time.”
Mitt Romney underscored that reasoning when he told an audience at the NAACP earlier this summer that, “Black children are 17 percent of students nationwide – but they are 42 percent of the students in our worst-performing schools.” Yet so indifferent is Obama to this fact that he’s repeatedly supported terminating a successful school choice program overwhelmingly populated by minorities in Washington D.C., one of the nation’s worst school districts – despite the fact that the program costs less than half than a conventional DC education and generates nearly double as many high school graduates (a recent study by the Brookings Institution showed that black students with vouchers are 24 percent more likely to enroll in college).
The same trend can be found in virtually all facets of public policy. Unemployment among African-Americans was at an astonishing 15 percent in July. Crime rates are disproportionately higher in poor minority communities (as City Journal’s Heather MacDonald recently noted, “New York’s data-driven, proactive style of policing is government’s most progressive social program, for its benefits accrue disproportionately to those same minorities.”).
In the second quarter of 2012, black homeownership was at less than 44 percent, more than 20 percentage points lower than the nation as a whole. Virtually no major liberal initiative targeted at the black community in recent decades has met with success.
The beauty of conservative policies – be they low taxation, educational choice or equal justice before the law – is that their benefits apply equally to all, with no regard for race, skin color or creed. That pitch may not be as rhetorically appealing to black voters as promises to tailor policies directly toward them, but it does have one key advantage over the liberal approach: It actually works.
Someday soon, black voters are going to start realizing that in droves. And when they do, Democrats will be sorry that they believed they could take the support of African-Americans for granted, even as they consistently failed them.
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