One of the recurring sentiments I heard as I walked the hallways of the Washington Convention Center during last week’s Congressional Black Caucus Foundation annual conference was fear that President Obama would be defeated in 2012. There seems to be a palpable fear among Black voters that the President will not be able to secure another term. The fear is understandable in light of the nation’s economic crisis and the calculated efforts of Congressional Republicans to forestall any administrative initiatives that might improve President Obama’s standing among the electorate.
Still, there are several factors that work to the President’s favor that Black voters need to keep in mind as the 2012 election season gets underway. First, despite the fact that the economy is often a predictor of an incumbent President’s electoral fortunes, all polls indicate that the public has a lower opinion of Congress than they do of President Obama. Even polls that indicate that the President’s popularity has taken a hit reveal that the public supports his positions. Two perfect examples of a conflicted public is the support of the President’s position on raising taxes as a tool to lower the deficit and his recently announced jobs initiative. You would not know it by reading the headlines or watching the cable news channels, but most voters think President Obama is taking the right positions.
The second factor is the capitulation of the Republican Party to its conservative wing. The GOP has essentially become the Conservative Party with moderate voices like Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander being pushed to the side. The inability of House Speaker John Boehner to control Tea Party Republicans in his caucus is a function of the degree to which the right has hijacked the party. The current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls are a group of Ronald Reagan wannabes who are advocating policy positions that did not work in the 1980’s and are insufficient to tackle today’s crises. It is why they are failing miserably to connect to the majority of American voters, and the Republican Party is still searching for a candidate who can compete with the President. What’s more, many Republican voters, folks who are jobless and facing foreclosures and financial ruin, see through the theatrics of a Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. They may never vote for a Democrat, but they might choose to sit out rather than vote for Republican imposters.
The third factor is that despite all the talk about Democrats in disarray, the Republican Party is in crisis. Gains made in the last midterm elections and state races will be revealed as short-term victories; the country is changing, and changing rapidly as revealed by the 2010 Census data. This nation is moving quickly to a majority of color, and within that shift a younger demographic, that does not align with the Tea Party agenda or conservative policy positions. Once that majority becomes a voting majority, it is game, set and match. It is why the right is working feverishly to impose voter I.D. restrictions in states controlled by Republicans as a last desperate attempt to control the ballot box, and maintain political power. The shift in the electorate is particularly prominent in southern states where there has been a reverse migration of Blacks back to the south; quickly challenging the long-held “southern strategy” of the GOP inherited from Dixiecrats of the middle 20th century.
Perhaps the most significant factor in President Obama’s favor is the fact that he is the President. While White House incumbents have been defeated in the past, it is a tall order to wrestle control of the presidency from an incumbent. This President, though challenged by a fever-pitched critique partly fueled by racism, still has the bully pulpit of the Oval Office and the tremendous leverage afforded by the prestige of the presidency. Even with a dismal economy, the President makes his opponents look small by comparison and the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls fails to capture the public’s imagination.
What Black voters who want to see this President re-elected need to do is exercise common sense. The key is to vote and to use the period leading up to the November 2012 election to register as many like-minded people as possible. We should be building a coalition with Latino voters, and whites who truly represent a progressive mindset. Common sense suggests that a strong turnout by Blacks, Latino, labor and working class-middle class whites will lead to an Obama victory in 2012. As the President himself has suggested, there is a higher probability of him being re-elected than there was of him winning in 2008. For once, we need to move with determination and not with fear. Magic won’t re-elect President Obama, prayer will definitely help, but voting in record numbers will certainly pave the way to a second term.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.