President Obama's repeat lecture to black critics that blacks shouldn't expect anything special from him is disingenuous at best, and an insult at worst. Here are two quick political reality checks. He would not have won the White House if he had not won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina. Three out of these four states gave Bush his crucial margin of victory over Al Gore and John Kerry. Obama won these four states because black voters turned his election into a holy crusade and stormed the polls on Election Day. The voting percentage and numbers in every other state that Obama won was equally off the charts.
The unrequited political love black voters showed for Obama didn't stop with them giving him a top heavy vote with no strings attached. For practically his entire first year in office they've also given him their mute silence. This despite chronic double digit unemployment among blacks and 1930s Great Depression joblessness among young African-American males, higher percentages of homelessness, home foreclosures, school drop out rates, incarceration rates, and higher incidences of every major medical maladies among blacks than any other group in the country. African-Americans are still the prime victims of hate crimes, housing, employment and business loan discrimination than any other group.
Special interests, be they lobbyists, big money campaign contributors, corporate, labor, and political interest and ethnic groups, are the key to election victories. No politician, and I mean no politician, has a prayer of winning a major political office in America without their money, power, influence, and support. All politicians make promises to special interest groups to pocket their money and votes, and if they don't keep them, or displease them, they will hear about it either through loud vocal protest, or their greater threat to fold up the check book, and their votes.
Obama knows this. His campaign war chest bulged with millions from the Wall Street financial houses, banking interest groups and their CEOs, as well as insurance industry and pharmaceutical groups. Wall Street has been amply rewarded with billions of taxpayer bailout money. Big Pharma and private insurers have been rewarded with the dump of the public option, guaranteed mandates, with government subsidies, to private insurers, and no effective caps on drug costs in the health care reform bill.
Labor, environmentalists, and gay groups were rewarded with a guarantee to fight for Employee Free Choice Act to do away with private-ballot union elections in the workplace, reduction of greenhouse emissions, and ramped up green investment spending, the scrapping of don't ask don't tell, passage of the expansion of the hate crimes law, and support of gay marriage. Even religious fundamentalists who Obama had absolutely no hope of winning any substantial support from even got a small payoff from him when he pledged not to scrap Bush's Faith Based Initiative.
Obama took umbrage at the light handslap from the Congressional Black Caucus to do a little more for the black unemployed and dire cash strapped black businesses and broadcasters, while making the ridiculous claim that the poorest and neediest will be helped by him helping everyone else. He should just level with them. And tell them that he can't and won't do anything special for blacks, because he's scared stiff he'll be even more shrilly race baited by the GOP and Sarah Palin and the tea bagger ultraconservatives as a stealth Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in the White House.
He ran for and won the White House with the mantra that any real or perceived tilt toward blacks by a black presidential candidate, let alone a black president, would be tantamount to committing political suicide with white voters. The majority of them did not vote for him, and if polls are any indication, still wouldn't vote for him. Expect more calls from the black critics for Obama to do more for blacks, and expect more lectures from him why he won't.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January 2010.