In what is likely to be a vicious battle to a close finish, both Presidential candidates turn to the traditional carrot-on-a-stick method of campaigning… pandering to a particular demographic with glittering promises. While Romney is delicately walking the balanced beam, hoping to win the hearts of the Tea Party fiscal conservatives without ostracizing the moderate voters, Obama has turned his attentions to pandering to America’s black voter with a new Initiative, outlined in an Executive Order issued last Thursday.
Obama’s official kick off of his Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans was in a speech to the Urban League the night before in New Orleans. Kristen Welker, reporting for MSNBC’s First Read touched on Obama’s dual train of thought, as well as the political expedience.
An administration official tells NBC News the order will create a new White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans that will “work across Federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African American students.”
The official added that the initiative would be housed in the Education Department, which will work with the Executive Office and other Cabinet agencies to identify practices that will improve African Americans’ achievement in schools and colleges. The administration official did not yet know how much funding the program would receive but said more information would be released Thursday when the president signs the executive order.
The president has previously received criticism from some black leaders for not doing enough to help the African American community as rates for school dropout and unemployment among African Americans continue to be higher than the national numbers.
For example, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the dropout rate for African American students ages 16 to 25 was 8 percent in 2010; by comparison, white students in that age range had a 5.1 percent dropout rate. Further, the unemployment rate for African Americans is 14.4 percent, significantly higher than the national average of 8.2 percent.
Last August, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) told a crowd of Congressional Black Caucus members in Detroit, “We want to give the president every opportunity to show what he can do and what he’s prepared to lead on. But our people are hurting and the unemployment rate is unconscionable.”
Obama has in the past responded to such criticism. In an interview on BET last September he answered a question about why he didn’t create more policies specifically targeted at African Americans: “That’s not how America works,” the president replied, “America works when all of us are pulling together and everybody is focused on making sure that every single person has opportunity.”
But when election season hits, and enthusiasm is low, Obama no longer believes that America means “pulling together” and “every single person” should have the opportunity. Tis the season of pandering, and that means focusing special attentions of those of a particular race.
Prior to this, Obama has attempted to keep any actions that smack of Affirmative Action low profile. I.e. the lack of media focus and follow up on his March 2010 EO #13532, Promoting Excellence, Innovation, and Sustainability at Historicallly Black Colleges and Universities.
And how’s that been working out?
Considering that the majority of black Americans can be safely counted in the pockets of the Democrats by tradition, one wonders why Obama feels it necessary to resort to more useless pandering and fake solutions. After all, this initiative is nothing more than feel good promises, advisory committees and the administration throwing money at studies and chit chat. But it does give the appearance of “doing” something, and provides handy fodder for demographic specific campaign stops. Or perhaps he’s a tad worried about the small contingent of black Pastors who are launching an anti-Obama campaign because the POTUS has officially come out of the closet, so to speak, on his position on gay marriage.
Whatever burning need Obama conjures for his empty Affirmative Action EO, the most important point is that it’s the perfect diversion, attempting to sidestep direct attention to a failing economy… the genuine culprit for tough times for all Americans of all races.
Obama has had his ups and downs with his racial peers, suffering a decline in his approval ratings amongst black Americans last year. But only a fool would think that those who disapprove would be casting their lot with Romney as the alternative.
This is not about shoring up the base for what is likely their in the tank votes. Instead it’s a desperate attempt to revive the engine of enthusiasm and excitement that Obama enjoyed in the run up to the 2008 election. The problem remains that he’s stuck in the mid 40s for approval ratings. Since the majority of that disapproval revolves around a perpetually ailing economy, the likelihood of that changing prior to the election is slim.
There is no doubt that black American youths suffer a painfully high unemployment rate. But then college students, of all races, are finding the unhealthy job market disheartening. You can have all the education in the world, but it’s worthless if there are no job opportunities.
Focusing on the creation of panels, studies, self serving chit chat, and advisory committees about black educational opportunities at a time when jobs are scarce… most especially when focused on a single race of Americans… is an insult to all that this nation stands for. There is no “uniting” going on when a POTUS chooses only a particular segment of Americans to offer a “leg up” during economic hardships…. and a faux “leg up” at that.
But then, as soon as Obama let loose the dogs of campaigning in Jan 2011, basing them in his beloved Chicago, we knew we were in for a repeat performance of lofty promises, crystal ball parallel universes, unicorns, and Houdini economics. – all aimed at “middle class” rhetoric and the lifting up of the downtrodden.
Now Obama has dropped all appearances of not being an Affirmative Action POTUS. Or perhaps he is banking on his own apparent perception that black voters lack the education and political savvy to see thru his ruse. What he desires is that they’ll fall for this cheap political trick and believe his Initiative will actually do something of value for their lives.
It won’t, of course. It’s nothing more than a fake olive, glued on an extended branch. But it may ensure Obama that his base will be excited once more by his attentions to specific Americans of color. And that’s all it’s designed to do.