Black Americans voted with their feet in the 2010 midterm elections: they stayed home in record numbers and were one of the biggest reasons Democrats lost a record number of seats. Nor should anyone be surprised why so many Blacks decided to sit this one out. Black American voters may be becoming increasingly disillusioned with government, disillusioned with President Obama and his promises of job creation, disillusioned with his promises of change. And so they stayed home, a statistic supported by a recent CBS News report that cites lower turnout in most minority segments of the U.S. population than in 2008, but especially within the Black community.
But why is this surprising? Consider: unemployment is greatest among African Americans, with the Bureau of Labor (BLS) statistics reporting in Table A-2, unemployment of 29% for Black American adults. It is interesting to note that this recent mid-term election also saw a downswing in the number of newly registered Black American voters/students voting for the first time. But, if you consider that BLS reported that for Black Americans between the ages of 16-19, the unemployment rate is a stunning 48%, this kind of disenchantment with an administration that promised so much, but delivered so little, should be expected.
Less appreciated and not yet fully understood is the growing African American small business community. These Black Americans, often women and highly educated, are a very entrepreneurial segment of the population that have been hurt by Obama’s anti-small business policies and the hostility to business that emanates from senior Democrats in Congress. Furthermore, legislation such as healthcare reform, financial reform and the small business jobs creation act, championed by the old guard of the Democrat party, actually placed additional cost and time burdens on minority businesses. The uncertainty surrounding the extension of the Bush tax credits also affects the African American business community as it becomes hard for these businesses to plan for future growth.
Then, in an inexplicably, biased, racial-preference policy move, in late September, Obama signed legislation that selectively ranks minorities in order of importance for competing for federal contracting dollars. Black American businesses found themselves relegated to the bottom tiers of the program, forced to give precedence to Hawaiian Americans and Alaskan Indians.
Add to this, the growing realization within the black community, that the Democrat bargain with teacher unions has permanently doomed a large segment of children, especially Blacks, to an inferior education. Any objective review of the whole Michelle Rhee affair in Washington, DC demonstrates that when presented with a clear choice of promoting polices that will result in a better and more responsible schools vs. continued fealty to the Teachers Unions, Democrats will back the teachers’ unions every time.
In so many different areas, African Americans seem to have been taken for granted by the Democrat party, which has depended on the African American community in their get-out-the-vote efforts. The recent election shows that Democrats should no longer take the black vote for granted, while at the same time, cracks in the once strong alliance are starting to widen.
Of course, it is also important to point out that just because Blacks decided to withhold support for Democrats, they may not yet be willing to support the GOP in significant numbers. If the GOP wants to gain the Black vote, they are going to have to earn it by championing job creating prosperity.
Black Americans, like many Americans, were proud of the “post-racial” president, a feat which many of us had not believed would occur in our lifetime. But, as president, Obama, a man who is clearly bright, articulate and intellectual, has appeared to be excessively anti-business, ignorant of the basic workings of government, inexperienced in the kind of leadership necessary to bring different factions to consensus, and incapable of putting together a team to fill in the gaps of his inexperience.
These failures have been disappointing to many Americans, but perhaps most painful to the Black community who may have hoped that the first African American president would turn out to be the stuff that dreams are made of, answering to a higher calling than just the petty politics of partisanship and trying to achieve more for all Americans rather than just focusing on getting himself re-elected.
Disappointment may be too simplistic a term to capture the reason why Black Americans did not turn out in large numbers to vote. It seems ironic that America’s first Black president, in his first two years in office, has done more to disadvantageously affect the Black American community than any other president in the last half century. No wonder about the turn out. No wonder at all.