Commentary: Vote While There’s Still Time

Though the temptation to ignore the political process may be strong, there’s a good case to be made for African-Americans, especially those in crucial swing states, to get out and vote.

Posted: 11/06/2012 09:15 AM EST

In 2008, a record number of African-Americans came to the polls to vote for Barack Obama for president. While Blacks had long lagged behind their white counterparts when it came to voting attendance, that year, for the first time in history, Black voters outpaced their white, Asian and Latino counterparts by significant percentages.

All that African-American presence at the polls is a big part of what helped push Obama over the top for his historic victory, especially in Southern swing states like North Carolina and Virginia.

This year—today—Obama needs a similar turnout from African-Americans in order to win re-election. And some pollsters don’t think that turnout’s coming.

Reports Patrik Jonsson in the Christian Science Monitor:

In [Virginia and North Carolina], some polling and anecdotal evidence is giving rise to Democratic concerns that African-American enthusiasm for President Obama has slipped as a result of stubborn economic despair, deteriorating inner city conditions, a sense among voters that Obama no longer needs the black vote to win, and disagreements over social issues, including the president’s embrace of same-sex marriage. Heightening those concerns is the recognition by campaign strategists and analysts that, to win reelection, Obama likely needs to get close to the 65 percent of black voters who turned out in 2008 to vote in 2012.

Dispirited by those predictions, Gerry Hudson, the international executive vice president at labor union SEIU, wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post arguing that even if Black presence at the polls dips 1 percent from where it was in 2008, that’s enough to change an election:

History has taught us that a single percentage can be decisive. In 2000, when voter turnout was a record low 55 percent, George W. Bush won Florida by 527 votes, a margin of .01 percent. In 2004, only 60 percent of eligible African Americans voted compared to 65 percent in 2008. In that race, George Bush won by about 3 million votes. A surge in voting among African Americans and other core Democratic constituencies could have tipped both presidential races.

Some Blacks—and some whites, for that matter—seem to be under the impression that Barack Obama hasn’t done enough for them in his four years in office.

With Black unemployment still in the double digits, and many African-Americans still struggling with poverty, anti-Obama or anti-government sentiments can be an easy feelings to adopt. But when you go to the polls today, perhaps you should consider two things before you fall into total cynicism: That Obama has actually done a lot for the Black community that’s gone under-recognized, as is laid out here. Also, Obama’s alternative is Mitt Romney, a man who has made it clear time and again that he does not have the best interests of the African-American community in mind.

You can vote for whomever you’d like today, which is the beauty of democracy. But allowing the slow and arduous process of American politics defeat you into not caring about politics at all is the last thing you want to do. Succumbing to that temptation is tacitly succumbing to the machinations of racists who have for decades to keep Blacks from voting.

These views do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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