President Barack Obama’s drop-in visit to Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network annual conference this year was conspicuously more than a cameo appearance. The president had notably kept the reverend at bay for over four years. By returning to his roots, he sends a mixed message that is both hypocritical and deceitful.
During the 2008 election, when Obama was riding an historic wave of grassroots support, he treated Sharpton, strategist par excellence at exploiting people in despair, like he had leprosy. The radical, race-baiting reverend, after all, is best known for riding into town on his proverbial high horse and engaging in confrontational marches and making outrageous demands for corrective action for the perceived racial injustice de jour.
Obama kept Sharpton at a distance to avoid tarnishing his crossover politician image and alienating white voters. The president has already lost much of his independent voter support through his overreaching healthcare legislation, regulation of lending institutions and limitless governent spending programs. The housing market is flat. Consumer confidence is weak and Americans are increasingly questioning the direction Obama is taking the country. Many believe he should be a one-term president.
Sharpton introduced the president to his predominantly black audience by citing a Biblical passage that suggests that “greatness serves others” and brought Obama to the stage with the title “Servant in Chief.”
“We don’t have to agree with everything the President does, and we don’t,” Sharpton remarked. “But we’re not confused. This man has led. This man, this President, has served us.”
That too was disingenuous.
More than any other group, blacks have not been able to cash in on Obama’s campaign promises. The president’s tax and spend philosophy has left many blacks in a rut and collectively worse off today than they have been in decades. As of March, they had a 15.5 percent unemployment rate, up from 15.3 percent in February, almost twice as high as the national rate. Black median incomes are down and black poverty rates are at the highest level in recent memory – and rising.
It’s not that blacks are on the verge of throwing the president under the bus, like Obama did Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his former church. Black’s passionate love affair with Obama is a marriage of remarkable permanence. However, his base is not as excited as it was when candidate Obama received 95 percent of the black vote. In a Gallup poll last week, 84 percent of blacks approved of the president’s overall performance.
Actually, the president’s record on black concerns is a mixed bag. In some quarters, black voters have criticized Obama for not paying enough attention to their parochial concerns. Conversely, the Obama Justice Department dropped voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party after “poll watchers” intimidated white voters outside a Philadelphia polling place in a primarily black voting district. The same Justice Department asked Dayton, Ohio, to lower its police exam passing score because too few black applicants passed. Obama hasn’t said much about these events, but it’s fair to question whether they represent the White House version of “social justice” in their application.
My guess, though, is that blacks will vote for him again without reservation or reward, if for no other reason than he is black. It’s difficult to explain this allegiance in the face of Obama’s poor overall performance aside from being a marriage of convenience. Obama needs a large black turnout to offset dwindling support from independents. Blacks seem to have an abiding need to promote racial pride even without receiving dividends from their blind investment of loyalty.
Think of the Sharpton embrace as pure political expediency. Obama wouldn’t be the first politician to engage in “drive by” campaigning. He rarely attends church, but look for him to show up in a black pulpit near you before Election Day under the guise of “serious outreach.”
Blacks should be insulted. All voters should ask the real Obama to stand up.