Responding to criticisms that he hasn't done enough to help African-Americans, President Obama and his surrogates have espoused the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats. Unfortunately, many Blacks, facing record levels of unemployment, foreclosures and other economic calamities, feel like they’re sinking or already sunk. Although they still comprise the president’s most loyal base, Obama launched this week African-Americans for Obama to reignite their enthusiasm for his 2012 campaign.
“This campaign is powered by folks at every level taking ownership where it matters most: around the kitchen table, barber shops and beauty salons, in your faith community, at work or at school,” the president says in a video launching the effort. “And, of course in the voting booth this Election Day. We are greater together than we can ever be alone.”
The website outlines plans to recruit volunteers and register voters and efforts to get out the vote with the help of churches, barber shops and beauty salons, Black civic organizations and HBCUs. The campaign also has hired Stefanie Brown, formerly an NAACP field director, to be its African-American vote director.
“In 2008, voters from across the country — many of them African-American — voted for the first time because they recognized that President Obama played by a different set of rules — a set in which everyone had a fair shot. He needs the support of the African-American community in order to continue to bring positive change to our community,” a campaign aide told BET.com.
Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women, said this week that she’s not seeing the same level of enthusiasm among voters aged 18 to 24, 55 percent of whom turned out for Obama in 2004.
“This generation is maybe turned off from the process and we have to figure out how to engage them…and the economic rewards are not there,” she said. “No one needed [that] in 2008; there was enormous excitement about change. But in 2012, people need to see movement in the economy that is trickling down to their own communities.”
Vincent Hutchings, a University of Michigan political scientist, said that the novelty that was associated with Obama’s 2008 candidacy would be hard to duplicate in 2012, and he’d be surprised if the level of turnout is comparable. He added that while the new effort shows Obama’s not taking Black votes for granted, the way he’s governed may have.
“This effort to focus on African-Americans? Where was that emphasis when it came to policy decisions and addressing unemployment? When asked that by reporters, his response was the equivalent of a rising tide lifts all boats. That’s not the strategy when it comes to re-electing Obama. All of a sudden it’s important to target Black voters,” Hutchings said.
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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)