A First Term of Failure on Race Issues
Will four more years of Obama bring more economic devastation to the black community?
Yesterday, President Obama was ceremonially sworn in for his second presidential term on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday commemorating the civil rights icon. “Ceremonially” is the key word, because the Constitution mandates that the president and vice president take their oath of office on January 20. Both men did so in private on Sunday. Yet the public ceremony for America's first black president on MLK Day presented an 800-pound gorilla: Obama has been a disgrace to the vision of a colorblind society, stoking racial divisiveness when it accrues to his political advantage, while at the same time remaining indifferent to the economic devastation his economic policies have cause the black community.
When he was first elected in 2008, Obama promised the nation that he and his party would govern “with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.” It was not to be. Less than a month after his inauguration, Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, controversially accused Americans of being a “nation of cowards” with respect to discussing race.
However, it is the Holder-run Justice Department that has pursued a cowardly racialist agenda for the last four years. It dropped the case of voter intimidation against New Black Panther Party members who threatened Philadelphia voters in the 2008 election, and ignored a $10,000 bounty the NBP put on the head of the media-anointed “white Hispanic,” George Zimmerman, in the racially charged Trayvon Martin shooting. Even as the racial divisions in that case were being stoked, Holder praised racial arsonist Al Sharpton at his National Action Network convention, despite Sharpton's promise to “occupy" the town where the incident took place. Holder may have taken his cue from Obama, who also lauded Sharpton a year earlier for lifting up "not only the African American community, but the broader American family.” It is impossible to believe either man is unaware of Sharpton's efforts to provoke anti-Semitism during the Crown Heights riots, his fanning of racist flames in the Tawana Brawley case, or his “white interlopers” remark that led to the Freddy's Fashion Mart murders in Harlem.
During the election campaign, Holder filed suits against states requiring photo IDs for voting, outrageously likening such efforts to Jim Crow-era “poll taxes,” despite a 2008 Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of such laws. He filed a brief supporting racial preferences at the University of Texas, fatuously arguing that they were necessary to promote national security. When the key provision of Arizona's immigration law allowing police inquiry into one's status was upheld by the Supreme Court – following a lawsuit initiated by the DOJ – Holder warned the state he would continue to “vigorously enforce federal prohibitions against racial and ethnic discrimination.” And despite the sub-prime mortgage debacle that led to economic disaster, particularly for minorities, the DOJ continued to pursue an “anti-discrimination” agenda against “racist” lending institutions so that the devastation could begin anew.
The DOJ's efforts to stoke racial division is hardly an anomaly. In 2010, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan launched an initiative “to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement” in public schools. Along with the DOJ, he targeted schools with “disproportionate” minority discipline rates, based on the idea that racism – as opposed to student behavior – was the cause for such disparities. During the 2012 election campaign, Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius accused Republicans of using “code language” to disparage the president. Outgoing Labor Secretary Hilda Solis blamed the left's favorite “racist" entity, the Tea Party, for hurting the economy. DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz echoed Eric Holder's assessment regarding voter ID and Jim Crow-ism. And in August, Vice President Joe Biden told a largely black audience a Romney administration would "put y'all back in chains.”
None of this would have been possible without the president's consent. As for Obama himself, he too began stoking racial divisiveness early in his first term. Jumping to conclusions, the president announced that the Cambridge police “acted stupidly” when they questioned Harvard professor Louis Gates outside his home. He helped stoke racial tension in the Trayvon Martin case – and very likely hindered the ability to seat an impartial jury as well – when he remarked that “if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon,” even as the evidence in that case remains in dispute. Speaking to a Latino audience before the 2010 election, he advised them to “punish our enemies” instead of sitting out the vote.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, two older videos of Obama surfaced. In one, before a largely black audience, Obama implied that post-Katrina New Orleans was intentionally neglected due to “institutional racism.” In another, he is shown as a college student offering his support to Harvard professor Derrick Bell, whose “critical race theory” maintained that America's legal system is inherently biased, and that such bias conferred upon minorities both a right and duty to decide which laws are worth obeying. And the president's membership in Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church, which espoused a racist black liberation theology the president claims he never heard a single word about over the course of two decades, lends further credence to the idea that this president is comfortable with an “us against them” mentality–one that extends far beyond the boundaries of race.
Yet let it be stipulated that the president is entitled to promulgate any worldview he desires, other than one that conflicts with the Constitution. Nevertheless, the realities of whether that worldview has helped or hindered America is fair game. Concerning the racial harmony that would ostensibly result from healing the divide, as the president promised back in 2008, the results are not good. An analysis of 2012 voting patterns compared to those of 2008 reveal that the gap between white and non-white Americans has grown wider in the past four years. An AP survey reveals that 51 percent of Americans express overt antipathy towards blacks, up three percent from four years ago, while 56 percent of Americans harbor implicit anti-black attitudes, a six percent increase. Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who helped develop the survey, notes that a 4 percent margin of error may mean attitudes have stayed the same–but they certainly haven't gotten better. (Interestingly, it apparently didn't occur to these pollsters to ask Americans whether their attitude towards whites have changed.)
A 2011 Gallup poll was far more insightful. Asked if government should play a “major role” in attempting to improve black and other minority Americans' social and economic conditions, 59 percent of blacks said yes, compared to only 19 percent of whites. Asked if new laws are needed to reduce discrimination against blacks, the numbers were just as lopsided: 52 percent of blacks said yes, compared to only 15 percent of whites.
This speaks directly to the “transformation” of America this president promised to undertake, as well as the increasing divide that accompanies it. In short the growing population of non-white Americans desires bigger and more intrusive government, while the diminishing number of white Americans are becoming increasingly alienated by that prospect.
Unfortunately for non-white Americans, economic reality intrudes. While the overall unemployment rate remains at 7.8 percent, the black unemployment rate is currently 12.4 percent, and the Hispanic unemployment rate is 10.6 percent. Yet Mitt Romney and Republicans didn't come close to convincing non-white Americans, who preferred the president by overwhelming margins, that ever-expanding government accompanied by $16.3 trillion of national debt will exacerbate that economic reality. If trends remain the same in the next four years as the last four, non-white Americans, particularly blacks, can expect to bear the brunt of either the weakest recovery on record – or another recession.
A real jobs boom would require businesses to feel confident about hiring additional employees. Yet during his inauguration speech, the president, apparently oblivious to the rancor he engendered during the election campaign, once again couldn't resist taking another shot at the nation's job-creators. “For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” he said. Furthermore, despite that complete disconnect from his call for a “more inclusive” America, Obama proceeded to lay out a progressive agenda that will alienate slightly less than half the nation as he tries to implement it.
In January 2009, a CNN survey showed that 60 percent of Americans believed Obama's inauguration was a celebration of democracy by all Americans, versus 39 percent who believed it was a political celebration by the winning candidate's supporters. The 2012 inauguration showed a stunning reversal: 62 percent saw a political victory celebration and 35 percent believed all-inclusive democracy was celebrated. CNN Polling Director Keating Holland illuminated what Americans can expect over the next four years. “The thrill is gone, along with the hope that the start of a new presidential term of office will bring a divided nation together,” he said.
One can only wonder how many Americans, noting the day this ceremony took place, unconsciously compared the greatness of an iconic civil rights leader who strove to bring the entire nation together, with the smallness of a president who divides Americans into sub-groups for political gain. The bet here is more than a few Americans wondered where we can find another Martin Luther King Jr. in a nation that so desperately needs one.
Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.