Black Politicians Continue Pressing Obama to Fight—But Is He Caught in a Classic Double-Bind?
As the steady march towards 2012 steps into gear, black politicians are pressuring President Obama to directly address blacks across the nation. Last week, Rep Maxine Waters addressed a community in Compton and called upon him to stop worrying so much about reaching across the aisle, and put more emphasis on getting jobs for impoverished black communities. And today, Rep. Laura Richardson told Politico that he's being far too cautious and kowtowing to those who would accuse him of favoritism. “I understand that you’ve got to be president for all people," she said, "but this administration has gone just too far; they really don’t even say ‘African-American’ or talk about [our] specific issues."
Officials in the administration are exasperated by this accusation, with one source saying, "We have met with black leaders more than any other group, and we are increasing our outreach."
But racism directed at Obama has been key to understanding how he operates in relation to blacks and people of color, unfortunately. Politico:
“If the president were to start speaking directly to African-Americans about what he’s doing for them, what he has done for them as the first African-American president, that during a general election campaign … could have very adverse [effects],” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told MSNBC on Monday.
“I believe that black people understand that. I think they understand it well. … And I’d also like to talk to my friends in my own community who are raising these issues to make the point that if you weaken President Obama in the black community, you seriously hamper his chances of being reelected. A small depression among the African-American electorate could be devastating to this president. And I’d also like folks on the other side of the conversation to tell me who the alternative is that’s going to do such a better job for black people. Will it be Michele Bachmann? I mean, will it be Mitt Romney? Rick Perry?”
Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy, who studies race and politics, thinks Obama’s black support “has frayed a little bit around the edges, but I think only a little bit” and said Obama’s tricky racial balancing act saddles him with “burdens that other politicians don’t bear.
So, is the president damned if he does, damned if he doesn't?