Commentary: A Clear Choice for African-Americans

We still have a long way to go, but our country has turned the corner, and the last thing we can afford to do is turn back. Obama deserves four more years to finish the job he started.

As voters head to the polls and decide which direction to take the country, the choice they face could not be clearer. 

When President Obama took office, we were losing nearly 800,000 jobs a month. Our auto industry hung in the balance. Foreclosure rates were on the rise. We were still fighting two wars, and our greatest enemy was still plotting to harm us. And we know in many cases African-Americans were disproportionately affected by many of these challenges.

From his first day in the Oval Office, Obama took action to start turning things around, and today we can see all that he has accomplished. We’ve created 5.4 million private-sector jobs over the past 32 straight months. The unemployment rate is down substantially from its high.  And while unemployment in the African-American community has remained stubbornly above the national average, it has fallen by more than 2.5 percent in the last year alone.

But the president knows that we cannot afford to sit back and hope things get better. That’s why he’s put forward clear, achievable plans that will continue to create jobs, build middle-class security and do some nation-building here at home.

His plan will create a million new manufacturing jobs and double our exports so manufacturers can stamp “Made in America” on more products and sell them around the world. His plan will cut our oil imports in half and produce more American-made energy — like oil, clean coal, natural gas and new resources like wind, solar and biofuels — creating 600,000 jobs in natural gas alone, all while doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks.

Obama knows that we also need to train the best workforce in the world. So he wants to build on the education achievements from his first term by recruiting and preparing 100,000 math and science teachers so Americans graduate prepared to compete for the jobs of the future. His plan will train 2 million Americans at our community colleges with the job skills they need, and cut the growth of tuition in half over the next decade and expand student aid so more students can afford college. 

And the president wants to use half of the savings from ending the war in Afghanistan to help pay down our debt and invest the rest in fixing our roads, runways, bridges and schools so we can do some nation building here at home. 

The president’s plan moves us forward and stands in stark contrast to Mitt Romney’s pledge to turn us back to the same failed policies of the past that wrecked the economy and caused the greatest evaporation of Black wealth since the Great Depression. Over the past six years while he’s campaigned for president, Gov. Romney has labeled himself “severely conservative,” the “ideal” Tea Party candidate and promised to enact policies like a $5 trillion tax cut weighted towards millionaires and billionaires that will either explode the debt or be paid for by middle class families, getting “rid of” federal funding for Planned Parenthood, promising to “kill” Obamacare and telling undocumented immigrants to self-deport.

African-Americans won’t be fooled by Romney’s last-minute attempt to hide his true positions and promise of secret plans that make it all work. He’s still the same candidate who was caught on camera writing off 47 percent of the country as victims who were dependent on government to a room full of his wealthy donors.

Romney’s record and past statements speak for themselves. And they clearly show exactly what kind of extreme agenda he would pursue in the White House: the same one that crashed our economy and devastated the middle class.

We need to stick with a president who has had our back every single day since he took his hand off the Bible that cold day in January nearly four years ago. He’s led us out of the worst recession since the Great Depression and saved the American auto industry, the backbone of the African-American middle class. He’s brought our troops home from Iraq, ordered the mission to get Osama Bin Laden and decimated al-Qaeda’s leadership, and is winding down the war in Afghanistan. As Colin Powell made clear in his endorsement, Obama has the judgment, vision and leadership our country needs to keep moving forward by creating opportunities for all, while looking out for the least among us.

We still have a long way to go, but our country has turned the corner, and the last thing we can afford to do is turn back. Obama deserves four more years to finish the job he started.

Patrick Gaspard is the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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