BY DWIGHT LEWIS
Shh! Pay very little attention to the noise you’re hearing about President Barack Obama being in deep trouble with his African-American voting base.
It’s just not true. Consider the noise made last week by U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who is black, when he charged that Obama didn’t visit any African-American communities during his three-day tour through Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois.
“The laughable hypocrisy is that the big, black bus is not going in the black community,” West said. “(The) Democratic Party has taken the black vote for granted, and you have established certain leaders who are nothing more than overseers of that plantation.
“And now the people on the plantation are upset because they have been disregarded, disrespected and their concerns are not cared about.”
“I don’t believe Allen West speaks for black people,” David Bositis, senior analyst with the Washington-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, told me Thursday. “President Obama is at a tough point right now, but African-Americans know there’s only one person trying to help African-Americans and the rest of the country get out of this mess we’re in. And it’s certainly not the Republicans.”
Bositis called my attention to a story that was in The New York Times Wednesday about the tea party.The analysis by David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam, says that what tea partiers have in common is that they are “overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.
“More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006, opposing abortion, for example, and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a tea party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics.” The story adds that tea partiers continue to hold these views.
Of the Obama programs they oppose, Bositis noted, “The stimulus was important for a lot of blacks, in that they were able to keep their jobs. Health-care reform is about blacks and other minorities. Most whites have insurance.
“People complain that Obama kept the Bush tax cuts, but he had to do that at the time because the economy was on the edge of the knife. But Obama has also got a 2 percent payroll tax cut, and that has been a big plus for a lot of poor people.”
Still, Obama must realize blacks will not vote for him in 2012 just because he happens to be African-American. The black unemployment rate for July was 15.9 percent, far higher than the overall unemployment rate of 9.1 percent. That somehow must be addressed.
Going back to the tea partiers, Bositis reminded me that they were ready to put the country in default during the debate over raising the debt ceiling.
“They are fanatics,” he said.
That’s why you have to be careful when you listen to campaign speeches by people such as Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. They might claim they want smaller government, but make sure you find out what else they want, and would do if elected to office.
As Bositis asked, “Can blacks trust Republicans to get the nation out of this mess?”
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