I was standing in the kitchen, half listening to the TV the other night while I warmed my dinner up when two black guys from Georgia appeared on CNN. The lead-in to the segment proclaimed that these men were southern Democrats who had recently decided to switch to the Republican Party after the GOP made major gains in the U.S. House and state legislatures across the country because the Democratic Party was too far to the left. What got my attention was the underlying narrative that John King, the CNN host, was half heartedly attempting to push—how disillusioned black Americans are becoming about the Obama presidency.
As I listened to the back and forth between the host and the two Georgia politicos, our art student, back home over college break, posed a question. “Aren’t you a political blogger?”
I looked at blogger Andre Walker, whose Geek 2.0 attire and demeanor were straight out of Stereotypes 101, and shook my head. “Sometimes,” I answered, hoping that she didn’t associate me with the nerdy looking guy in the sleeveless sweater on the screen.
Walker and Ashley Bell, a Georgia legislator, were pretty vocal about their disappointments with the Democratic Party. They both laid out their reasons for making the switch to the GOP, reasons that were entirely plausible, given their own conservative leanings. Where the CNN host John King lost me was when he tried to make the case that President Obama’s policies were slowly losing his most reliable voters in the run up to the 2012 presidential elections, as if there has been any time since Lyndon Johnson’s re-election bid that the policies our incumbent presidents have followed have outweighed the centrifugal force of identity politics.
Most African Americans who are registered to vote could care less about the outcome of the START treaty vote, the national debt, the federal deficit, or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Most of us are concerned about jobs—if not for ourselves, for someone we know or someone to whom we are related. Most of us have enough common sense to understand that this president can’t say abracadabra, wave a magic wand, and expect our nation’s economic woes to disappear overnight. Furthermore, we grasp instinctively that any other Democrat who could have been president—Clinton, Edwards, Gore, Kerry—would not have done any better, given the depth of the situation.
So what are many African Americans keying on? The kind of human scale signs of change myopic journalists at POLITICO and The Washington Post and The New York Times seem to ignore. A few days ago, I was watching the nightly news at home when a clip showed a passel of kids, many of them black, in the White House, taking pictures with the president. S. beamed with pride. “You have never seen this many children of color in the White House.”
Last weekend, during a lunch gathering after a college graduation ceremony for a married mother, I watched as early Christmas gifts were presented to her two boys. One of them was a copy of Of Thee I Sing, the children’s book the president wrote for his daughters. The nine year old didn’t understand the title, but he knew the name of its author. “Barack Obama!” The younger son’s ears perked up when he heard the president’s name, and started repeating it to himself. His mother went on to explain to the half dozen African American adults at the table that her nine year old had played the role of President Obama in a production at his school a few weeks back.
Most of us understand that the president’s commitment to funding for historically black colleges, the first lady’s food desert initiative, and the recent push for better quality school lunches hit us squarely where we live, even if the policy wonks in our nation’s newsrooms refuse to connect the dots.
Are the nation’s African Americans beginning to become disillusioned with President Obama?
Not this year.