Leading Democrats are betting that if the midterms are a “referendum on Obama” they like their odds with the party’s African American base. Nine out of every ten African Americans have an unwavering loyalty towards the Democratic Party. So, to tap into President Barack Obama's high approval rating among Blacks the head of Democratic National Committee (DNC) has approved a $2 million advertising outreach effort among African Americans for the 2010 November midterm elections. The ad-buy says: "Stand With President Obama. Vote November 2."
President Obama may be floundering among the rest of the population, but has a 91 percent approval rating among Blacks. During the Congressional Black Caucus’ recent Legislative Conference in Washington, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine met with White House aides and civil rights leaders about Black turnout for the November elections. But counting on a high turnout among African Americans in the midterm elections is tenuous at best. Polls show that the enthusiasm gap between Whites and Blacks is even higher than in past midterm elections: 42 percent of Whites are thinking about the November elections, whereas only 25 percent of Blacks are focused on the midterms.
Kaine’s goal is an 8 to 10 percent “Obama bump” over prior midterm participation, and says “investment in African American outreach is fundamental to that effort”. The $2 million the DNC is committing is up from $260,000 in 2006. The ads will go up in key states with sizable Black populations such as: Florida, California, Maryland and Illinois. Overall the DNC has committed $50 million to minority voter outreach.
More than $3.7 billion will be spent in the 2010 midterm elections by various interest groups, so the $2 million outlay among African American media shouldn’t be a major matter. But, the Black chairman of the Republican National Committee is accusing Obama & Company of making “an appeal based on class warfare and race”. RNC Chairman Michael Steele acknowledges that the GOP should do better when it comes to minority outreach; but, now as before, has committed no money. The RNC’s first African American chairman admits that the Republican Party has failed to sufficiently reach out to Blacks, and has employed a “southern strategy” for the last “40-plus years.” Throughout his tenure Steel has repeatedly promised to do a better job of minority outreach, but has done little but talk loud. Steele’s negative comments on the DNC’s minority outreach should be viewed by Blacks as an affront.
It’s good that the Democrats are giving Black media outlets some “walking around” money, but its young people, Latinos and African-Americans that have fared the worst under Obama’s presidency. Blacks are between the devil and deep blue sea when it comes to our causes. The Republicans really don’t want us and the Democrats take us for granted.
It’s curious as to why those most battered by the economic recession would be expected to “stand up” for more of the same. Obama’s, and the Democratic-led Congress’, economic recovery programs have not possessed the key elements necessary for all Americans to share equally in improved prosperity. African Americans are still being hit hard with an unemployment rate of 15.7 percent; and as high as 50 percent for Black teenagers. Double digit unemployment is tragic for Americans who are not accustomed to more than 4 – 5 percent joblessness, but for African Americans, being in a recession is nothing new, since we tend to hover at unemployment rates that exceed those of white Americans by 4 - 5 percentage points. On the whole, racial sentiments are playing a role on both sides of this season’s advertising and get-out-the-vote issue. The RNC is pointing to Obama’s minority outreach to stir White resentment and goose the GOP base. Be the voter Black, or White, the greatest problem either group has with President Obama is that an economic recovery means nothing if his policies and practices create no jobs or wealth-building where they live.
(William Reed is available for speaking engagements via BaileyGroup.org)