By Wilmer J. Leon III
As the country moves into the full scale presidential election process, a troubling pattern is developing within certain segments of the African American community. There’s a concerted effort by some to silence those who are offering honest, valid, and well thought out analysis and criticism of the Obama administration.
I’ve written about individuals such as Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Al Sharpton and others who have attempted to label honest policy debate as betrayal. Former Princeton Professor Melissa Harris-Perry referred to Professor Cornell West’s critique of the Obama administration as, “a self-aggrandizing, victimology sermon deceptively wrapped in the discourse of prophetic witness…”
The 2012 election will be much different than the 2008 election. President Obama is not running against a failed Bush administration; he’s running on his own record. He’s running against subtle and sometimes obvious bigoted rhetoric as well as the usual voter suppression tactics. As Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman recently stated, the same thieves who backed Bush are backing Romney. President Obama is running against 8.3 percent unemployment and a shaky economy. Hope and change will not carry him to victory in 2012.
Senator Obama received 96 percent of the African American vote in 2008. It is expected that President Obama will receive close to the same percentage this time around, although the turnout may be lower.
The issue for the African American community is what’s the “B-Plan”? What will the African American community do in the event that President Obama loses and they have to deal with a President Romney? What will happen if African Americans have to get away from the politics of personality and actually decide to deal with the politics of policy?
Mitt Romney has endorsed House Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan. Various analyses show that budget plan cuts food stamps by $134 billion over 10 years and would remove 280,000 children from a free school lunch and breakfast program.
The Ryan budget and a President Romney would have a disproportionately devastating impact on the African American community. According to Bread for the World, African-Americans are 22.5 percent of the participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program… One in four African-Americans lives below the federal poverty line, compared to about one in eight Americans overall… More than a third (35.7 percent) of all African-American children lives in poverty, compared to one in five children living in poverty in the country as a whole.
If a President Romney tried to implement the Ryan budget in its current form, the African American community would be outraged. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and other leaders would be calling for marches. Talk show hosts Joyner, Harvey, and others would be begging their audiences to write, call, and petition their elected representatives to restore funding to social programs.
Under the Obama administration, African Americans are worse off economically, but where’s the outrage? Too many in the community are silent or being attacked and summarily dismissed as traitors, haters, crazy, and misinformed for calling for targeted solutions and policy initiatives to address the suffering in the African American community.
To paraphrase a popular quote attributed to everyone from English Statesman Lord Palmerston to former Congressman Bill Clay, the African American community should not have permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. We should be focused on policy, not personality. It must be clearly understood that having an African American in the Oval Office is not in and of itself a victory.
While I, too, celebrated the election of this country’s first African-American president, without substantive and measurable policy outputs that benefit the African American community, the ethnic makeup of the president is irrelevant.
The community could take a page from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Their sole mission is to ensure that the foreign policy outputs of the US have a positive impact on the state of Israel. It matters not to AIPAC who is in the White House. Democrat or Republican, friend or foe, AIPAC is going to insure that its message is heard and interests are protected.
In 1857 Fredrick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” President Obama is the one in power and the African American community has failed to demand from him the policy outputs it needs. If Romney wins, what’s Plan B?
Wilmer Leon is the producer/ host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.twitter.com/drwleon