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Politics & Current Affairs

Why Are Some African American Professionals Disappointed With Obama?

I wanted to start the year off on a positive note, but a spin around the blogosphere today has already got my blood pressure up. In particular, I am extremely disturbed by a phenomenon that appears to be spreading among a certain segment of upwardly mobile African Americans, a group who has traditionally been a part of President Obama’s strongest base of support. I think the big problem for me is not that some of these folks, who are among the highest paid and best educated people in the country, are dissatisfied with the president’s performance, but because these are the people who are the best equipped to know better.

There is no small irony in the fact that members of this disgruntled group have lives very similar to the one the Obamas had before Barack Obama decided to run for president.  These are the kind of people who use Six Sigma concepts in organizing their daily lives. Who have memorized the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. These are the kind of people who will perform a S.W.O.T. analysis when they take their car in to the repair shop for an estimate. In other words, these are people who understand first hand that despite the best funding, the most efficient data processing, or the most motivated CEO they’ve ever had, organizational change can move at a glacial pace. Why they aren’t applying this knowledge when analyzing the Obama administration’s progress thus far is the sixty four thousand dollar question.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at any of this, but there was something in the self-serving tone of the blog I read earlier today that tripped the “ON” switch to the holiday highlight reel in my head, a string of images that had me seething by the time I’d recalled all those brown faces mouthing phrases like “Obama has no backbone” or “Obama has lost my support.” It was a feeling so strong that it had me scouring the internet this evening, looking for empirical proof that having an Obama administration was a good thing for African Americans. It took awhile, but I found what I was looking for.

At last count, Obama had exceeded Bush in the number of minorities appointed to his administration, and the count, according to all the people in the know who watch these things, will be getting higher every month as holdovers quit or are relieved:

A National Journal survey of 366 of the president’s Decision Makers — people appointed or nominated to senior positions throughout the executive branch — found that white men hold 52 percent of the jobs. But when 49 holdovers from the Bush era are excluded, white men make up just under half — 49 percent — of the Obama team.

National Journal – “Obama’s Team: The Face Of Diversity” by James Barnes

If a number of my fellow African Americans don’t like some of the outcomes of Obama’s decision-making so far, fine. I don’t like everything he decides myself.  But in the reality based world the rest of us live in, the world doesn’t change overnight, or in eleven months, for that matter.  

The impact of Obama’s staffing of the government is likely to extend beyond the next four years of this administration. Should Obama seek and win another term, the number of women and minorities poised to assume even more senior positions will only grow.

“There’s diversity in this crowd that nobody else has approached before,” said Democratic lobbyist Marcia Hale, a veteran of Bill Clinton’s White House. “Four and eight years from now, there will be an amazing array of people from different backgrounds,” she predicted.

National Journal – “Obama’s Team: The Face Of Diversity” by James Barnes

These political appointments by the White House may not seem like a big deal, but most of the current leadership of the Democratic Party, the people who decide what policies the party will support, were spawned during the presidential tenure of Bill Clinton. This latest class of appointees will impact political decision-making at national and state levels for years to come.   

So why am I so concerned about the opinions of such a small group of African Americans, whose numbers arguably comprise only a small sliver of black voters?  This small group holds an outsized amount of political influence, not only in the black community, but in mainstream America as well, where they often serve as sounding boards for think tanks, cable news shows, and academic roundtables. They can either add positive momentum to this president’s tenure, or create negative drag.


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