Posted by | August 18, 2011 20:12 | Filed under: Top Stories

By Yashwanth Manjunath

In recent weeks President Obama has been receiving harsh criticism from activists and elected officials for his series of broken promises to the African-American and Latino communities, and it is about damn time.

On Tuesday, Latino activists held a rally to protest the record number of deportations that have taken place under the Obama administration. Obama deported 393,000 people in fiscal year 2010, only half of whom were considered criminals. That total far exceeds any year during the Bush administration. A fact not lost on rally organizer Roberto Lovato who said:

We know that the people in the Obama campaign … are running a campaign that assumes that Latino voters will take anything over a Republican, including a Democrat that is worse than a Republican on immigration. Our actions are to show that you’re wrong.

Latino voters were critical to Obama’s victory in 2008. They came out in unprecedented numbers for him because they liked his personality and rhetoric and because he promised them comprehensive immigration reform, with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But Obama refused to even try for comprehensive immigration reform when he had the benefit of a 60-vote super-majority in the Senate and a 71-vote advantage in the House of Representatives, and barely fought for the DREAM Act until the lame-duck session, which ultimately failed to pass. The Latino community catching on to the fact that Obama has given them nothing in three years should be a significant cause for concern for his political team, but even more troubling is the brewing rebellion within the African-American community.

The economic recession has been difficult on the entire country, but the African-American community has been hit harder than anyone else. 16.2% of African-Americans are unemployed, with real unemployment closer to 28% when factoring in 99’ers, compared to just 9.1% unemployment for the general population. Yet Obama has not even presented a plan for how to address the depression-like conditions within the black community and the growing gap in wealth between black and white Americans. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is the latest in a series of prominent black leaders including John Conyers, Emmanuel Cleaver, Tavis Smiley and Cornell West to publicly criticize the president for the indifference he has shown to the plight of African-Americans struggling to find work.

At a jobs forum in Detroit on Tuesday, Waters lambasted Obama for refusing to even stop in a single African-American community during his bus tour through the country.

We don’t know why on this trip that he’s in the United States now, he’s not in any black community,” she said. “We want to give him every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is,” she continued. “We’re supportive of the president, but we getting tired, y’all, getting tired.”

This morning in Atlanta, Waters again attacked the president arguing that “The president is going to have to fight and he is going to have to fight hard” on behalf of the black community. Obama’s approval rating among African-Americans has fallen 16 points from 97% when he first took office, to 81% as discontent with his policies grows.

As to why Obama is ignoring the needs of the African-American community during these crippling economic times, nothing says it better than a devastatingly damning quote from Emmanuel Cleaver at the end of last month:

I think that the president and the White House have been very cautious in their work, so as not to give anybody a reason to believe that they are somehow leaning towards African-Americans.

Leaning towards African-Americans? Can you imagine Malcolm X or Martin Luther King being afraid of the perception that they were “leaning towards African-Americans.” Countless numbers of innocent civil rights leaders and activists died during the 50’s and 60’s so that Barack Obama could be president and now he’s worried about the political criticism he would receive for “leaning towards African-Americans” right when they need him the most? If Cleaver is right, then shame on President Obama.

African-Americans and Latinos were Obama’s most energized core supporters back in 2008 and if he continues to actively ignore them — or worse, antagonize them — the question isn’t whether the ones who turn out in 2012 will vote for the current radical, xenophobic, reactionary incarnation of the Republicans. The question is whether they turn out at all. If the Obama team thinks they can win in 2012 with their base as deflated and dejected as it is now they are sadly mistaken. Campaigning with the Audacity of Hope will not be enough to win those supporters back after they have seen him govern with the Timidity of Hopelessness, so Obama better figure out how to actually deliver on the change he promised before it is too late.

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