Obama 2012 Pumps Up the Volume in Black Communities

Getting African-Americans to listen is key to an Obama victory.

Posted: 12/05/2011 03:01 PM EST
Barack Obama 2012 Pumps up the volume in Black Communities

Despite unwavering support among a majority of Black voters, President Obama’s re-election campaign isn’t leaving anything to chance and fighting to ensure this core constituency knows exactly what Obama has done from them lately and in the past. Key administration and cabinet officials have been visiting Black communities around the nation, hailing victories such as reforms to health care and education, Politico reports, after a summer in which they were stunned to hear several complaints that African-Americans were feeling ignored by the administration.

 

“We’ve been working so hard on our accomplishments,” senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told the publication. “Now is the time to tell our story.”

 

Obama addressed Black voters discontent in September in an exclusive interview with BET News. In November, the White House released a 44-page report and hosted a forum on African-American Policy in Action with Black leaders and advocates to discuss how the administration's efforts have helped communities and solicit ideas for how it could do better. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is hosting a panel discussion today on finding jobs and training for parolees and felons after they’ve been released from prison.

 

Campaign workers and volunteers have been visiting beauty and barber shops, church halls and neighborhoods, according to the Politico report, to promote the president and the importance of returning to the polls to support him next year.

 

But according to conventional wisdom, while such outreach is necessary, it will be difficult to replicate the 2008 level of both support and hope.

 

“I don’t know if you’re going to get the heightened turnout,” said Newark Mayor Cory Booker told the publication. “I think it’s going to be the challenge. In 2008, we had tens of thousands of new voters. Only a percentage of them have kept voting in [off-year elections]. I don’t know if that percentage will bump back up” to the record-high level of participation.

 

Another Democratic political operative suggested that the administration and campaign may not realize how deeply disappointed African-Americans may feel about the president’s inability to deliver the “progressive agenda” he promised four years ago.

 

“The enthusiasm gap is the game,” the operative said.

 

Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, says that the enthusiasm gap will close once the Republican Party has chosen its nominee to challenge Obama next year.

 

“As difficult as [things] have been for African-Americans under Obama,” West said, “they’ve likely concluded that they’d do worse under Republicans.”

 

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