Over the years, fast food franchises such as McDonald’s and Popeye’s have used ads with generic hip hop beats infused with bass, silky-smooth African-American voices, and scripts laced with trendy slang in an attempt to appeal to urban audiences. It’s so prevalent in radio and television that we’ve learned to write this off as ridiculous pandering. However, the new “We’ve Got Your Back Obama” radio ad has thrown us all for a loop. What were they thinking?
It’s one thing to sell flame-broiled burgers and crispy chicken with cheap ads, but votes? The ad clearly breaks two unspoken rules. First, it uses the same tired tactics as many fast food chains. The ad actually concludes by telling us to go to “gottavote.org” to support President Obama. (Yes, the campaign bought that domain name.) Second, the “We Got Your back Obama” radio ad clearly highlights the idea that politicos expect the African-American community to automatically “have the president’s back” because he is African-American. It’s one thing to count on that support, but to actually highlight it is unprecedented. Would House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the highest ranking Jewish member of Congress in history, be as bold? Would Congressman Barney Frank, the first Member of Congress to voluntarily announce that he is gay, call on the LGBT community to do the same? I think not.
It’s not necessarily absurd to think that most African-Americans will support Obama in the November because he is an African-American. It’s the norm. For the most part, African-Americans support African-Americans. It is no secret that many members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are from areas that have large African-American populations. This rule generally applies to most ethnic groups in America. Hispanic Americans support leaders in their respective Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican or other Spanish-speaking communities. Jews support Israel and other leaders in the Jewish community. Asians often support leaders that represent their Korean, Chinese or Japanese values and heritage. This is the very reason former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin of Alaska may have appealed to “hockey moms” and that many Republicans would like presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to pick Sen. Marco Rubio, who is born to Cuban immigrants, as his running mate to garner more Hispanic votes.
This may all be very true and pretty obvious, but there’s another hidden truth in President Obama’s ad that isn’t very obvious. It appears that Obama is willing to spend valuable campaign cash to reinvigorate African-American enthusiasm for his re-election bid. Maybe African-American support isn’t as automatic as many people think.
Charles Chamberlayne is a public affairs specialist, political consultant, and veteran of Capitol Hill. He has worked as a spokesperson former Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and many senators, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing)