Ann Coulter is a white Crystal Wright. I met Crystal more than ten years ago when I interviewed her for my book, In Search of Black America. She is still sharp and beautiful even though her contemporary web persona is puzzling yet extremely entertaining. On Twitter, her handle is GOPBlackChick and she is editor of conservativeblackchick.com. The last headline on her website proclaimed "Blacks are Fed up with Obama; It's about Time."
Really Crystal? Are blacks fed up with Obama? Every sign of black opinion on Obama I see is compatible with the recent Pew-USA Today poll, which places President Obama's favorability at its highest since 2009. I have not seen any evidence of black discord from those numbers.
It must be so frustrating to be an Obama-hater now. Perhaps it is like being a liberal who did not consider Ronald Reagan to be the God of the White House in the '80s. Now, through the sequester and a shaky economic recovery, Obama clearly displays some of that Reagan teflon that easily carried the former president through Iran Contra. This is a moment of Revenge of the Liberals who survived the Reagan years. In fact, one of Wright's own tweets yesterday implied Obama supporters were as locked to the president as Reagan-lovers were during the Eighties. Wright tweeted, "if the president told his supporters to jump off a bridge for hope & change, they would say how many times?"
Now it is time for my own confession: I love reading the blogs of conservatives, especially black Obama haters. Maybe it is a fascination with "the other." Maybe it is akin to my comfort and ability to be entertained in a room of Ronald Reagan lovers 30 years ago. Conservative tweets are great bedtime reading -- almost like watching Comedy Central. Conservative William Carter Jr. describes himself as "God-fearing, Husband, Father, Brother, Son, Friend, American, Gamer. Life is short, enjoy it while you're here, you only get one." Carter tweeted that the president could propose to bring back slavery, and his supporters would "clap at the SOTU when it's announced." Derrick Burnette says: "If Obama spit in his supporters face they'd say thanks 4 the rain Mr President." Just pass the popcorn or pour me another glass of Merlot.
Wright, Carter or Burnett may have felt at home at a dinner I attended in the '80s with black Republicans honoring Richard Nixon. Someone compared Tricky Dick's record on race to Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. To be fair, the speaker was referring to the former President's black capitalist initiatives.
Beyond her tweeting sensations, Wright makes some solid points. There are some thoughtful elements in her blog posts exploring the GOP's pathetic efforts to reach out to black voters. And she takes us back to those "binders" -- not Romney's books of good women. Wright notes that the Congressional Black Caucus gave President Obama "binders full of blacks to appoint to cabinet positions but Obama isn't giving his 95 percent a single nom. Zero."
There are some rumblings outside the black conservative corridors that Obama has, like most other Democrats, ignored his most loyal voting supporters, African Americans. I explored this question with someone who follows the pulse in Florida's only Bush-Obama county, Hillsborough and statewide. Charles Cherry is the Publisher, General Manager, and columnist for the Daytona Times, which covers African American communities across the state of Florida. He is not a black conservative or Obama hater but says African Americans should engage politics beyond labels and parties. He also says too many African Americans in Hillsborough County and elsewhere are soft on the president. "I don't think they're evaluating him by the same standards that they evaluated George Bush."
Chuck Cherry: Generally speaking, he does get a pass... based on the fact that most black people really understand that the Republicans hate the guy and that many of our readers don't want to be seen as assisting his enemy... if you're asking about what are folks saying in the streets -- I don't think they're evaluating him by the same standards that they evaluated George Bush. I think, frankly, there's a double standard with regards to the performance of Obama, and I think that people have a tendency to rationalize what he's done, and they have bought some of the talking points that the administration has put out: that he's not the president of black america, white america, he's the president of America... But I think there are a lot of conflict issues in play, and I think any place you go in black Florida, you'll find somebody that has an opinion that may be a bit different about Barack Obama, but I think where you have general unity is from a symbolic perspective. I don't know anybody who doesn't believe and understand that it's very powerful symbolism to have a black man as the most powerful man on the planet, to be reelected twice, and to have an unapologetically black, smart woman that's his wife, with those two black girls in the white house. You won't find any disagreement among black folk as far as the symbolic nature of the president, but we start dealing with the issue, you start having some division.
Q: Beyond the symbolism, in terms of economic issues, and appointments -- what is different than having a George Bush or Bill Clinton?
From my perspective, not much... I'm just going to do what we've always done, which is to see what happens and to make decisions based on the actions that the president takes or he doesn't. We'll try to hold him to the same standards -- no higher or lower -- than we have over the years that we've been in print, which is since 1978. I mean same thing we did with Carter, Reagan, Bush. Bush, you know... Many of our readers say he's already got folks that hate him, I'm not going to be part of the brigade of folks that hate this guy, I'm going to give him a chance to do what he needs to do. I think-once he gets reelected, he's going to come and start doing the things he knows he couldn't get done in the first administration.
Q: Is that similar to say how some African Americans rationalized support for the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, arguing that once he became a Supreme Court Justice, he would be free to turn away from what some considered an anti-black perspective?
I think there's a parallel there... Again, when we look at what's going on in our neck of the woods, probably, the most direct predictor of how somebody feels about Barack Obama in black Florida -- I can ask you, are they male or female? Typically, the sisters will defend him to the Nth degree, while brothers will criticize him on his lack of aggression on certain issues, we're the ones who will disagree with him on issues. It's more as a consequence of the family that he has. He has self-identified as a black man -- clearly. In terms of trying to find his black roots, after got away from his grandma, grandad in Hawaii and all the rest of that -- and I think it's good to talk about his search for his identity as a black man -- he married a black woman, he's got two beautiful young black kids, I mean, man, you can't buy that kind of loyalty from sisters, man. [laughs] And let me tell you something. In my experience, and it's not just sisters here in my state, but any black women that I've talked to, they are loyal to a fault, to not just Barack Obama, but the Obamas. And Glenn and I were talking about how, brothers, we can't even say anything! Cause if you criticize even the issues, you a hater. If you criticize him on the issues, you're in bed with the enemy. You know, Republicans hate him, and you gonna help the enemy destroy this black man and his family. Those kinds of things. Those are the reactions you get typically with black women, even when you try to have a rational, fact-based, issues-based discussion about what you would consider to be some qualms or concerns you have about the administration. So it's difficult to have just a fact-based discussion about the administration's policies and issues, it's very difficult if you're sitting across the table from a black woman, it really is.
The black publishers have met with him twice in the White House. First time was a meeting after, in March of 2009. When we had the last meeting at the White House, we had a panel discussion with some of the folks in the administration, the black people in the administration. This was in 2012, so this was before the election. Essentially, what they wanted us to do was to go and tell the success story of the president to black America. He came in, he gave a pretty basic, fill-in-the-blank speech about some of his accomplishments, didn't take any questions, shook some hands, and left. But I wasn't impressed by what he had to say because -- he's been very inconsistent in what he said he was going to do in terms of black America. Which is, his theory has been that a rising tide is going to lift all boats. So when he said that back in 2008, I took him at his word. I think that he just believes that if he does right by the rest of America, the weakest and least of these, which are black folks in disproportionate pain, will, our lot will improve.
Q: Do you agree with that?
It's not. I don't agree with it at all. I think there ought to be some type of selective... triage. There's got to be some triage -- there are some people that are hurting worse than the others, those are the people that deserve help the most. Now, part and parcel of what he's talking about just this past weekend -- Chicago, the gun violence there -- when you start getting to the roots of that, a lot of that is economics and education and destruction of the black family there. A lot of that goes to the chronic unemployment and the disproportionately high unemployment in black America, particularly among black men, in Miami, in Fort Lauderdale. You can go to any of our urban areas here in Florida-Jacksonville, Daytona, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale -- it's the same thing. It's the same thing around the country. Those are the kinds of questions and kinds of issues that, if you were doing this from a triage perspective, you know, that's what needs to be addressed first. But it hasn't been done, you're not talking about it now. I've been listening to him in the last 24-48 hours...
Q: Yet doesn't he have to do that in order to appeal to many swing voters in Bush Obama counties. Do you think strong appeals soley to black voters would sacrifice support from other places that he receives?
It might, but from a leadership perspective, he has to do those things that are the right things, and that are the proper things, and then the leadership says, this is why I did it. I think that he's a very cautious politician. He doesn't seem, to me, to have the kind of political strategy -- his strategy has never been divisive in terms of leadership. I think he considers himself to be a cautious, collaborative leader. That's his leadership style. He has not, in my mind, I haven't seen him do anything that sort of splits the country down the middle and says, "Hey, here's why I've done this." I think -- the administration has a tendency to do polling and focus groups and this that and the other, before they try to direct.
We have asked actually, during the campaign, we asked the White House -- we wanted to feature the black folks that were in the administration, actually from top to bottom, and we never got a response from them. It wasn't because they ignored it, I think they chose not to respond because I think during the campaign, they didn't want to bring a whole lot of attention to race and the issue of diversity in the federal government. I'm not personally impressed with what you could call "black faces in high places." I think again, look at the actions, look at and evaluate the issues -- I mean, from my perspective, I'd rather have somebody of whatever color that would take a stand that we think that, on the issues that are most important to black Americans compared to someone that's black that will just sit there and take up space.