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African Americans Need a Better Reason to Suppport President Obama

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Respected commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson recently made a set of accurate remarks about the challenges that President Obama faces within the African American community. He cites a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll that shows that there are as many African Americans who are dissatisfied with the president's performance as there are who are happy with it.

One doesn't need to be an expert to realize that there are fumes coming out of the nostrils of millions of African Americans who once saw President Obama as the knight in shining armor. He was the man who made them believe that politics could be changed for the better. Instead, they found themselves faced with massive and persistent unemployment and a racial wealth gap that hasn't been seen in the last 40 years. Needless to say, relentless, child-like optimism has been replaced by lip pursing, arm folding skepticism and the baggy, tired eyes of intense economic suffering.

While I understood the sentiment behind Hutchinson's arguments, he and I agree to disagree on the response to the problem. Hutchinson, whom I believe to be a strong Obama supporter, repeatedly makes the argument that African Americans must embrace the pragmatic reality that the GOP is so unwilling to compromise and has such disdain for minorities and the poor that they must forgive any degree of political cowardice on the part of the Obama Administration. He also makes the accurate point that the GOP hardly provides any legitimate replacement for the president that would be better for African Americans.

The points are noted: Yes, the Republican Party has shown a degree of resistance to President Obama that is uniquely designed for the first black president. Also, while Republicans have certainly sought to take advantage of the Obama Administration's failures as it pertains to black economic progress, they have yet to provide solutions to the problem. Providing solutions is not their goal, for they are primarily seeking to destroy Obama's political halo, not build a halo of their own.

With that being said, stubborn behavior on the part of Republicans should not be an excuse for inaction. In fact, some would say that dealing with a stubborn opponent requires a greater (rather than lower) degree of political courage. Additionally, it's hard to determine whether the lack of action on the part of the administration is driven by rigid Republican negotiators or by the Obama Administration's understanding that African Americans simply have no place to go.

While one can quite readily argue that the Republican Party has not yet provided a viable alternative to President Obama for the African American community, it's hard to argue that they would be much worse. A 30-year reversal of the racial wealth gap and 16.2 percent unemployment are tough feats to match, so at best, we can only argue that Republicans would take things from "horrible" to "absolutely devastating" within the African American community.

One has to question those who simply defend the Obama Administration by presenting a contest to determine which party abuses the black community the worst. The only option that appears to work for black America is to buy a time machine so they can nominate a Democrat who would prove his/her loyalty with political action, rather than nice pictures on the cover of Essence Magazine. In all seriousness, African American leaders must find unconventional options to challenge the disappointing political realities that are built upon the desire to keep the black agenda invisible on Capitol Hill.

African Americans must be presented with political solutions that involve tangible action, and not simply the threat of a worse outcome if they choose not to vote. This is like telling a dying victim of gun violence that instead of taking him to the hospital, you'll keep him from being shot again. While one can still maintain the argument that Republicans are worse than the Obama Administration, this argument skates on thin ice for the millions of black Americans who've lost everything.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 


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