If there was one thing that made Barack Obama the candidate stand out from the pack during the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination battle, it was his confidence and forceful assurance that he had the remedy for the nation’s ills. In debates and on stump speeches, the presidential contender distinguished himself by the manner in which he conveyed a sense of calm as he engaged his opponents on the issues. We saw a glimpse of that self-assured, 2008 version of Barack Obama in the aftermath of the U.S. Special Forces raid in Pakistan that resulted in the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Given the state of the nation’s economy, we need the President to begin governing like its 2008.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly employment report for May bore nothing but bad news for the nation’s economy and a tale of horrors for Black Americans. The unemployment rate is up, and for Black Americans, it is now double the rate of whites. The economy sputtered along last month, with private sector firms creating few new jobs. The President’s poll numbers have taken a hit as the public is losing confidence in the administration’s ability to lead an economic recovery. Worse for President Obama, there is an internal debate raging within the Black community whether to assess blame for the economy on him or remain silent out of fear that open criticism of him will doom his reelection bid. For Blacks, who are the principal victims of the economic downturn, it is an unfortunate predicament. While it cannot be disputed that the economy was on a downward spiral when he assumed office, and the policies of his predecessor – George W. Bush – dug the hole, it is President Obama that must find the way out and it is his record that will be judged by voters next year.
For some time now this President has been paralyzed by the enormity of our nation’s economic problems. The economic stimulus package was a courageous, necessary and correct move, but in retrospect, insufficient in size to generate the type of job growth needed to bring the economy around. It is true that the President’s actions staved off the complete collapse of the nation’s automobile industry and that Detroit owes the administration much for the federal intervention. Still, what we need is some truly BOLD action on the part of the President to jumpstart the economy and the boost necessary to create the millions of jobs we need to have a true recovery. The tepidness he demonstrated in compromising on the Bush era tax cuts cannot be repeated if he has any hope of being reelected in 2012.
For starters President Obama must use his bully pulpit and force the issue of job creation on his Republican opponents and resistant Democrats. Truly, the American people, at least those with common sense and facing the reality of personal financial ruin, will side with the President no matter their political leaning. Partisanship gets sacrificed for self-survival and there are millions of jobless Republicans who will care little for GOP lawmaker’s demagoguery on the issue of the economy if President Obama can show them a plan that works for creating jobs. The ideologically driven rhetoric of House Republicans will fall on deaf ears if the President aggressively lays out a vision and a plan for economic renewal.
We believe any plan put forth by the President must address the persistence of Black unemployment. There are those, apparently President Obama included, who believe that any mention of a race-specific initiative will tarnish his presidency. We could not disagree more. If President Lyndon Johnson could travel to a historically Black college campus, as he did to Howard University, and speak with courage and conviction on the need to enforce and protect the civil rights of African-Americans, we believe this President can speak with the same clarity on the need to address economic inequities driven by race. While many Americans have certainly been affected by this historic recession, Blacks, already at a deficit when the downturn began, have been by far hurt the most. Though we agree the nation’s first Black President was elected to serve all Americans, that mandate should not preclude him from addressing an obvious crisis no matter the color of the citizens in need. Barack Obama needs to go “back to the future” and reclaim the mojo of the 2008 campaign and govern with the hope of a second term but with determination like he may only get one turn at bat.