When President Obama embarked on his previous jobs tour through the Midwest in August, he was criticized by African-American leaders for bypassing Black communities. The White House seems determined not to make the same mistake twice.
This time, the American Jobs Act Bus Tour includes Greensboro, North Carolina and Hampton, Virginia, two cities with substantial Black populations.
Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Missouri) is pleased.
“We need Congress to act now and pass a bill that has clear and targeted benefits to put America back to work and support those hardest hit by the economy, especially African-Americans," Cleaver said in an email to BET.com. "Taking that message to communities and places where those who have suffered the most not only gives hope, but it gives Americans the motivation to fight.”
It’s a far cry from last August, when Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) raised questions about the last jobs bill jaunt. She told attendees at the Congressional Black Caucus Jobs Initiative in Detroit, “The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is. We don’t know why on this trip he’s in the United States, not in any Black communities.”
With re-election in mind, President Obama's pitch to Black voters may be strategically wise as well. Jamal Simmons, former Obama campaign strategist, points out that there are 150,000 more African-Americans in North Carolina than there were during the last election. "The president is smart to be in North Carolina and Virginia," Simmons told BET.com, "because, in an election like 2012, those Black voters could mean the margin of difference. “
North Carolina and Virginia are important parts of the electoral puzzle. “But it’s also very important for the president to connect with African-Americans in these states, and both states are heavily populated by Black constituents,” Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions in Washington, D.C., told BET.com. “Sure it makes political sense for him to stop in Greensboro and Hampton, but it also makes sense for him to speak to the needs of the people as well.”
Simmons feels that Obama took the earlier criticism to heart.
“The critique of the Congressional Black Caucus has actually made the president a better candidate," he said. "By showing up in these cities and addressing the issues of racial disparity head-on, he is telling this community that they’re on his radar.”
(Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)