During his first term in office, President Barack Obama pitched his presidency as a monument to fairness. He declined to talk about the ways in which race complicates the American present and, in particular, his own presidency.
As a candidate in 2008, Obama said we needed to reckon with race and with America’s original sin of slavery. But as our first Black president, he has avoided the mention of race almost entirely. And although he chooses to tread lightly, there are plenty of people willing to let the American population know exactly how they feel about having an African American in the White House.
“Everybody get out and vote so we can get this N----- out of the White House,” BrittD!@brittd178 said on Twitter earlier in the week. There were thousands such messages, some of the more vicious hate was chronicled by various websites and bloggers.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a doctoral candidate in economics at Harvard, studied how racial animus could have cost president Obama votes in 2008. First, Stephens-Davidowitz ranked areas of the country according to how often people there typed racist search terms into Google. The areas with the highest rates of racially charged search terms were West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, upstate New York, and southern Mississippi.
After Obama won, the longed for post-racial moment never arrived; on the contrary, racism intensified. Steve King, an Iowa congressman and Tea Party favorite, complained that President Obama “favors the Black person.” In 2009, Rush Limbaugh, bard of white decline, called Obama’s presidency a time when “the white kids now get beat up, with the Black kids cheering ‘Yeah, right on, right on, right on.’ And of course everybody says the white kid deserved it. He was born a racist — he’s white.”
On Fox & Friends, Glenn Beck asserted that Obama had exposed himself as a guy “who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture … This guy is, I believe, a racist.” Beck later said he was wrong to call President Obama a racist. That same week he also called the president’s health-care plan “reparations.”
President Obama has become the most successful Black politician in American history by avoiding the radioactive racial issues of yesteryear, by being “clean” (as Joe Biden once labeled him) — and yet his indelible blackness irradiates everything he touches. For most of American history, our political system was premised on two conflicting facts—one, an oft-stated love of democracy; the other, an undemocratic white supremacy inscribed at every level of government.
"Part of the reason we're thinking about this is the dynamic of this being a Black president," said Mark Anthony Neal, a cultural and Black studies professor at Duke University.
Michael Tesler, following up on his research with David Sears on the role of race in the 2008 campaign, recently published a study assessing the impact of race on opposition to and support for health-care reform. The findings are bracing. President Obama’s election effectively racialized white Americans’ views, even of health-care policy.
As Tesler writes in a paper published in July in “The American Journal of Political Science,” “Racial attitudes had a significantly greater impact on health care opinions when framed as part of President Obama’s plan than they had when the exact same policies were attributed to President Clinton’s 1993 health care initiative.”
While Beck and Limbaugh have chosen direct racial assault, others choose simply to deny that a Black president actually exists. One in four Americans (and more than half of all Republicans) believes President Obama was not born in this country, and thus is an illegitimate president.
And more than a dozen state legislatures introduced “birther bills” demanding proof of President Obama’s citizenship as a condition for putting him on the 2012 ballot. Eighteen percent of Republicans believe Obama to be a Muslim.
The resentment is not confined to Republicans. Earlier this year, West Virginia gave 41 percent of the popular vote during the Democratic primary to Keith Judd, a white incarcerated felon (Judd actually defeated Obama in 10 counties). Joe Manchin, one of West Virginia’s senators, and Earl Ray Tomblin, its governor, did not attend this year’s Democratic convention.
As President Obama prepares for another four years, Erick Erickson, editor of “RedState,” writes that Mitt Romney lost because President Obama simply ran a superior campaign. Says Erickson, “there was just a really good ground game from Barack Obama and a lot of smoke and mirrors from Team Romney and outside charlatans,” including those who worked for Republican Super PACs, who never communicated an effective message.
For as long as Americans have been voting, there has been a large population of people would vote for whomever supported the causes of Christian, straight, white men. The population was large enough to win a great many elections for a very long time.
Now however the tables are turned. Hispanics, Blacks, young people, women, immigrants, and non-Christians are increasingly where the votes are. The Republican Party’s base is shrinking as younger people do not respond as readily to the old racist dog-whistle politics.
John Podhoretz at “The New York Post” agrees with Erickson that President Obama’s campaign was far superior to Romney’s. Podhoretz s said not only was the president’s message more effective, but he ran a strong state-by-state get-out-the vote effort that delivered his victory. Not to mention that President Obama also effectively persuaded voters that he inherited an America that was in dire straits when he took office, and worked hard to make things better, rallying the Democratic base that included young people, African-Americans and Hispanics. With that being said…race still seems to be a problem when it comes to accepting a Black president.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appears to have contempt for the people he seeks to govern.
How else to explain a video which shows Romney telling wealthy donors at a private $50,000-a-plate fundraiser at a mansion in Boca Raton, Fla., in May that nearly half of all Americans see themselves as victims entitled to government handouts, and that as a candidate, his job “wasn’t to worry about them.”?
Here are his comments in full context:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax…My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
After the emergence of the video, Romney sought to defend the statement as an inelegantly phrased description of the philosophical difference between the two major parties.
President Barack Obama cast Romney as an out-of-touch challenger for the White House.
“When you express an attitude that half the county considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government, my thinking is, maybe you haven’t gotten around a lot,” said the president in a forum aired by Spanish-language television network Univision.
The president is correct, but does not go far enough.
Romney’s remarks reflect more than him simply being out of touch; they reflect a contemptuous viewpoint that is based on several false assumptions.
It is true that 46.4 percent of American households paid no federal income tax, according to the Tax Policy Center. But it is not as if they are getting a free ride. “Nearly two-thirds of households that paid no income tax did pay payroll taxes. And most people pay some combination of state, local, sales, gas and property taxes,” reported Lucy Madison of CBS News.
According to the Tax Policy Center, more than half of the households not paying federal income taxes are those with incomes less than $16,812; nearly a third, 29.2 percent, earned between 16, 812 and $33,3542, and 12.8 percent are those with incomes between $33,542 and $59,542.
While most of the households not paying federal incomes are poor, some are middle class and some are rich.
In 2011, 78,000 tax filers with incomes between $211,000 and $533,000 paid no income taxes; 24,000 households with incomes of $533,000 to $2.2 million paid no income taxes, and 3,000 tax filers with incomes above $2.2 million paid no income taxes.
One of the demographic groups that is less likely to pay income taxes (or income and payroll taxes) also tends to vote Republican – seniors.
In 2008, voters 65 and older voted for Republican nominee John McCain over Obama 53 percent to 45 percent. Romney is currently winning senior voters nationally over Obama 53 percent to 38 percent, according to the latest CBS/New York Times poll.
The question is whether Romney will continue to win these voters after insulting them.
Mitt Romney's wince-inducing suggestion for gender equality, "binders full of women," has become almost as much of major Mitt-ism from the second presidential debate as "Big Bird" was in the first.
But I'm not mad at him. The Republican candidate's expression sounded a bit crude, but he had the right idea. After all, it is far, far better for Romney to have "binders full of woman" than to be, say, a blind fool about women.
The issue came up in response to a question on gender pay inequality. A woman in the town hall setting asked President Barack Obama how he intended to fight inequality in the workplace for women, who are "making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?"
That gave Obama an opportunity, which he eagerly took, to talk about the very first piece of legislation he signed into law as president, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
"It's named after this amazing woman who had been doing the same job as a man for years, found out that she was getting paid less, and the Supreme Court said that she couldn't bring suit because she should have found about it earlier, whereas she had no way of finding out about it," the president said. "So we fixed that."
Romney responded with a story about his efforts to pull together his first cabinet as governor of Massachusetts. When the list of qualified candidates were almost all male, he recalled, he embarked on a concerted effort to go out and find qualified women who could become members of our cabinet.
"I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women," Romney said.
As a result of his outreach, he said, the University of New York in Albany later concluded that Romney's cabinet had "more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America."
But the four words "binders full of women" already were going viral on the Twittersphere with its own hashtag, plus a series of memes on Tumblr and a Facebook page.
And the Obama campaign was quick to take advantage of the pseudo-gaffe. Vice President Joe Biden on the stump the next day called Romney's perspective on women a "1950s time warp" indicative of a conservative agenda on abortion, contraceptives and equal opportunity.
But to me, Romney's comment did not qualify as a genuine Mitt-ism. It fails to play into the usual stereotype of an out-of-touch, privileged businessman.
To me, he sounded more like a lot of managers I know who have been grappling for years with a thorny question that now once again happens to be in front of the Supreme Court: How can they take affirmative action to diversify their workplace (or in the current Supreme Court case, college student enrollments) without employing quotas or other "preferences"?
Romney did the right thing, judging by his account. If, instead of referring to "binders full of women," he had used the more conventional terminology, such as "reach out to expand the pool of qualified applicants to include more women," hardly anyone would have blinked.
Romney may have overstated his own initiative in launching the search, according to Jesse Mermell, a Democratic local official in Brookline, Mass., who was executive director of the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus at the time. Her group provided the resumes that Romney called "binders" without his request, she told reporters in a conference call along with Ledbetter.
But Ledbetter, the woman for whom the equal pay legislation was named, raised the central issue. Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, voted against the Ledbetter bill, as did most congressional conservatives. Romney has not clearly stated his position on the law, although he tends to look unkindly on any other proposal that expands the right of workers to sue their employers.
Bottom line, Obama and Romney presented two distinctly different approaches to the challenge of expanding opportunities for women. Romney offers good role modeling in his outreach for "binders full of women." Obama offers legal protections so employers won't be blind to women's rights.
In a new poll of registered Pennsylvania voters, President Barack Obama maintains a lead over Republican Mitt Romney, but one that is shrinking.
Obama enjoyed the support of 44 percent of registered voters, according to a poll released this week by Franklin & Marshall College. Romney had the support of 38 percent of voters, and 15 percent were undecided.
Those numbers represented a shift for both candidates.
In the previous F&M poll, released in February, 48 percent of registered Pennsylvanians supported the president compared to 36 percent who backed Romney, and only 12 percent were undecided.
“Obama’s personal favorability ratings and job approval rating declined in Pennsylvania since June,” noted the report, adding: “Obama has led Mitt Romney in every Franklin & Marshall poll since August 2011.”
Despite the decline, the president’s position in Pennsylvania mirrors his position here at the same point in the 2008 campaign.
“Obama’s re-election prospects in Pennsylvania today are quite similar to his position in August 2008,” said the poll. “His personal favorability scores are a bit lower than in 2008, but Mitt Romney’s scores are much lower than John McCain’s were at the time.”
In a more in-depth look at voter preferences, the poll found that non-white voters — it did not break voters down into individual ethnic groups — preferred Obama 85 percent to 6 percent. White voters were divided almost evenly, with 41 percent saying they supported Obama and 40 percent saying they supported Romney.
Women also favored the president, with 49 percent of women saying they’d vote for Obama compared to 34 who said they’d choose Romney.
Middle class voters gave Romney more support than either poorer or richer Pennsylvanians. According to the F&M figures, 44 percent of people with incomes between $35,000 and $75,000 said they supported Romney. Only 29 percent of those making less than $35,000 supported the Republican and just 34 percent of those making more than $75,000.
Nearly half — 49 percent — of those making less than $35,000 said they supported Obama, compared to 42 percent in the middle bracket and 49 percent in the over $75,000 income range.
Obama garners more support among college-educated state residents, with 50 percent of college graduates supporting Obama compared to 35 percent for Romney.
The poll broke down religious affiliation and found that fundamental Christians overwhelmingly support Romney, with 57 percent saying they backed the Republican compared to 29 percent who backed Obama.
Those figures compared to support among people who identified as “religious” who, overall, leaned toward the president — 61 percent of those said they backed Obama compared to 20 percent for Romney.
In a look at regional preferences — the Philadelphia region showed the most support for Obama: 73 percent of people here supported the president. In the counties surrounding the city, 47 percent supported Obama. Allegheny County residents also preferred the president 59 percent.
Political speeches have applause lines and “boo” lines. Which reaction do you think Mitt Romney expected when he promised the 103rd convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that, if elected president, he would get rid of “Obamacare”?
Yes, President Barack Obama himself has called his Affordable Health Care for America Act “Obamacare” on occasion, if only to defuse its derogatory connotations. Yet you don’t often hear Romney refer to the Massachusetts health plan, which he enacted as that state’s governor, as “Romneycare.”
Why, many wondered, would the Republican presidential candidate antagonize his audience members in an otherwise cordial visit? Perhaps it was because his real target audience was not in the room.
That became clear shortly after the speech, when Romney told a Fox Business Network interviewer that he had “expected” the crowd’s negative reaction. In other words, this campaign stop was not about wooing the NAACP, whose votes he was not likely to win anyway.
It was about, one, presenting a friendly face to swing voters watching through the media and, two, reassuring his party’s conservative base that he wasn’t afraid to confront Obama’s liberal supporters on their home turf.
“I am going to give the same message to the NAACP that I give across the country,” Romney said on Fox, “which is that Obamacare is killing jobs.”
And Romney was even more direct in the even friendlier confines of a Montana fundraiser a few hours later. “When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare, they weren’t happy,” he said “But I hope people understand this: Your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from the government, tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. But don’t forget — nothing is really free.”
That’s how you connect with a crowd that views government-provided access to health care for millions of uninsured Americans is just another giveaway to freeloaders. No wonder he doesn’t mention “Romneycare.”
Romney also was booed for this nugget. “If you want a president who will make things better for the African-American community,” Romney declared proudly, “you’re looking at him.” This time the reaction sounded mixed: some boos, some applause and some bemused laughter — as if to say, “You’re not serious, right?”
But, all kidding aside, I give Romney credit for showing up to speak to the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. His 24-minute speech received two respectful standing ovations and more than a dozen outbursts of polite applause from the very liberal crowd.
That’s because he did manage to present a few constructive ideas to fight poverty, like school choice, free enterprise and marriage. Unfortunately, he stopped short on details as to how a Romney White House might implement those good ideas into action.
That’s Romney’s dilemma: He’s a man whose past as a governor shows a clear record of using government to help people’s lives. Now he must appeal to a Republican base that views government as a problem.
In that pursuit, conspicuously absent from Romney’s speech was any mention of the R-word, racism. Fellow conservative President George W. Bush, despite the organization’s many criticisms of his policies, waxed eloquent on the need to fight racism in his 2000 and 2006 speeches to the group. But Romney may feel constrained these days by today’s conservatives. They tend to deny that racism remains a serious problem in the age of Obama, except when they detect it among Blacks.
Romney’s most poignant moment came near the end of his speech as he remembered his father, Michigan’s former Gov. George Romney. I am old enough to recall how popular Romney was with African Americans as he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in the 1960s.
The elder Romney spoke out against segregation, marched arm-in-arm with Detroit civil rights leaders and helped write civil rights provisions in his state’s constitution. Remembering the elder Romney reminded me of what disappointed about his son. George Romney knew how to speak with Black Americans, not just at them.
This week’s decision to delay the state’s voter ID until next year provoked reactions that predictably broke down along party lines with Democrats hailing it as a victory and Republicans crying foul.
“This really brings a smile to my heart as an activist,” said J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the state and local chapters of the NAACP, one of the parties in a legal challenge to the law. “Let the word go forth today that this is a victory for the people.”
An injunction granted by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on Tuesday allowed the law to stand, but ordered state officials not to enforce it on Nov. 6. Instead it would go into full effect next year in time for the May primary.
So, as it stands at the moment, the November election will mirror this year’s primary.
Election workers will ask voters for a valid photo ID, but people without it can vote on a regular voting machine in the polling place and would not have to cast a provisional ballot or prove their identity to election officials after the election.
Voter advocates now are focused on making sure that voters know that law has been delayed, making sure they vote, and their attempt to kill television ads still being run by the state that tell voters they need ID.
“For us, I think the outstanding issue is whether the Commonwealth is going to continue to have ads out there saying you need ID to vote, when in fact you do not under the judge’s ruling,” said David Gersch, the attorney for the coalition of groups that sued to block the law.
It was the second time the law came before Simpson.
In August, he refused to issue an injunction stopping the law. However last month, the state Supreme Court ordered him to take up the case again and halt the law if he found any evidence that it disenfranchised any voters.
“He almost got it right this time,” quipped Mondesire.
The state has the option of appealing the injunction. It was unclear at Tribune press time whether the state’s attorney would appeal.
Local Tea Party officials have already begun to press state officials for that appeal, threatening Corbett and two Supreme Court Justices with voter payback.
“We’re asking Gov. Tom Corbett to appeal this decision back to the Supreme Court, so we can get the Justices on record in this critical matter,” said Don Adams, president of the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC. “If Judge Simpson’s decision is not appealed by Gov. Corbett, we will hold the Governor accountable in the 2014 gubernatorial primary. If Judge Simpson’s latest decision is appealed — and upheld — we will work to defeat Justices Castille and Baer in their respective 2013 retention elections.”
If they choose to appeal, the case would bounce, again, to the state Supreme Court, which would likely hear it the week of Oct. 15, less than a month before Election Day.
Mondesire had harsh words for the Republican-controlled legislature that approved the law in March.
“It’s a loss for the scheming and lying legislators in Harrisburg who thought they could hijack a presidential election,” he said. “They gambled and thought they could hijack this election with a hastily crafted and poorly drawn law.”
Even Gov. Corbett, the Republican who signed the law, said he was pleased, at least in part.
“We are pleased with Judge Simpson’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the voter ID law,’’ Corbett said. “While we believe we have made it possible for every registered voter who needs voter identification to obtain one, we’ll continue our efforts for the next election and all future elections, to make sure every registered voter has the proper identification in an effort to preserve the integrity of our voting process in Pennsylvania.”
While many hailed the ruling as a victory for democracy, the sponsor of the law, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, was left fuming with indignation.
“Rather than making a ruling based on the constitution and the law, this judicial activist decision is skewed in favor of the lazy who refuse to exercise the necessary work ethic to meet the commonsense requirements to obtain an acceptable photo ID,” Metcalfe said in a press release.
Metcalfe argued that the law is constitutional, and should have been left alone.
However, Simpson’s charge from the state Supreme Court was not to rule on the constitutionality of the law, but to delay it if he found that it disenfranchised voters.
Noting that only five weeks remained until Election Day, Simpson said that was not enough time for all voters to get an ID even as the number of IDs issued has continue to increase.
“In the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed,” Simpson wrote.
Again Metcalfe disagreed — blasting Simpson and Corbett’s administration for their efforts to roll out the law.
“Justice Simpson and the Corbett administration have chosen to openly enable and fully embrace the ever-increasing entitlement mentality of those individuals who have no problem living off the fruits of their neighbors’ labor,” said Metcalfe, in his statement. “Although ensuring a fair and fraud-free election process is a fundamental responsibility of government, both the executive branch and judicial branch are failing the people by overstepping the boundaries of their constitutional authority.”
The 6-month-old law — among the nation’s toughest — has sparked a divisive debate over voting rights and has become a high-profile political issue in the contest between President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, for Pennsylvania’s prized 20 electoral votes.
Opposition to the law broken down along party lines – with Democrats opposed to it and Republicans in favor. Democrats seized on a remark by state House leader Mike Turzai, who said the law will “allow” Mitt Romney to win the state in November as proof of malicious intent behind the laws in states controlled by Republicans.
“(The) Voter ID … is gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania,” Turzai told a group of Republicans in late June.
A spokesperson for the Obama campaign remained cautiously neutral in commenting on the ruling.
“Today’s decision means one thing for Pennsylvanians: eligible voters can vote on Election Day, just like they have in previous elections in the state,” said state Senior Advisor for Communications Desiree Peterkin-Bell in a statement. “The right to vote and choose our leaders is at the heart of what it means to be an American. The President and his campaign are committed to making sure that every eligible voter, regardless of party, has the ability to make their voices heard and participate in the electoral process.”
While trumpeting the victory, city officials noted that unless the law is declared unconstitutional between now and May voters will need ID to vote then. City Commissioner Stephanie Singer said Philadelphians need to exercise their right to vote in every election.
“If we don’t come out and vote we disenfranchise ourselves,” she said.
Gersch said that the injunction, even if it’s not appealed, does not signal the end of the legal challenge to the law.
“There are important issues that still have to be addressed,” he said, noting that the state officials have asserted that they change the rules governing IDs at any time, which is unacceptable. “Our position is that’s not good enough. You’ve got to have a right – a right – to get the ID that you need to vote. But, those are all issues for another day.”
Mitt Romney’s trying to talk his way out of his gender gap, but, take it from me, women like guys who listen. My wife told me that.
Since the Romneys’ long marriage appears to be quite strong, he probably knows the value of being a good listener, too. Unfortunately, his speaking style doesn’t display much of it on the campaign trail.
Listening matters. As important as policy may be, voters tend to choose the candidate they think, most of all, is “on my side.” They want someone who connects with them, who conveys an understanding of their hopes and dreams.
That’s why recent presidents like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, whatever else you think of them, always seemed to have their big ears on when talking to people. Listening leads to a level of connection and understanding that voters, among others, appreciate.
By that standard, I used to think that Romney, the seasoned businessman and former Massachusetts governor, might well have an advantage. President Barack Obama looked by contrast like a loner who had to remind himself to look less professorial and more warm and fuzzy.
Yet it is Romney who has habitually stepped on his own campaign victories with gaffes and a persistent awkwardness about his own wealth and political beliefs.
Unlike George W. Bush’s folksy “I hear you,” or Bill Clinton’s empathetic “I feel your pain,” Romney’s delivery tends to sound about as engaging as a CEO’s annual report to stockholders.
I believe that helps to explain why a new ABC News/Washington Post poll that asks which man “better understands the economic problems people in this country are having,” gives the edge to Obama — 49 percent to Romney’s 37 percent.
Among women, Obama scores 20 points over Romney on this empathy question, up three points since a February survey. That tends to match the widening gender gap between the two candidates in other recent polls.
The partisan gender gap is not new. Men have been voting mostly Republican and women mostly Democratic for more than 30 years. But the gap suddenly yawned open into a canyon in the past couple of months.
A Pew Research Center poll has the former Massachusetts governor trailing President Barack Obama by 20 points among women voters for the second month in a row — and the two are virtually tied among men.
The latest Gallup/USA Today poll found Romney trailing the president by 9 points among women in battleground states in March – and by 2-to-1 among women under age 50 – after a virtual tie a month earlier.
Why? Conventional wisdom blames a string of debates and controversies about birth control and related social issues, pushed heavily by former Sen. Rick Santorum before he suspended his campaign. Much to the delight of Democrats, social issues of particular importance to women often have crowded out the economic issues on which Obama is more vulnerable.
As Romney looks increasingly as if he will be the Grand Old Party’s nominee, he faces the same challenge that dogged Sen. John McCain four years ago: How do you hold onto the party’s skeptical conservative base while reaching out to attract swing voters and closing the gender gap? McCain answered that challenge by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. That didn’t work out so great. McCain lost the election — and the pantheon of TV punditry gained a new right-wing superstar.
Romney’s awkwardness about equity for women showed itself when a reporter asked for his thoughts on the all-male Augusta National Golf Club. Obama had just called for the club, which is the home of the Masters golf tournament, to accept women as members.
Romney agreed, but with an awkward response so loaded with qualifying “ifs” that it sounded like an insurance contract: “Certainly, if I were a member, if I could run Augusta, which isn’t likely to happen, of course I’d have women into Augusta,” Romney said. I think that was a “yes.”
Romney often sounds as if he could use what President George H.W. Bush used to call “the vision thing.” It calls for more than balanced budgets. It begins with a strong inner desire to repair the nation’s divisions and revive our sense of shared values and common purpose. Women appreciate that. Men do, too.
For Democrats and their incumbent leader racing to re-election, it couldn’t get any better than this. It was the gaffe heard around the world. An unapologetically progressive Mother Jones magazine was more than happy to post it for all to see, an uncut and chalkboard-scratching videotape of Republican nominee Mitt Romney talking to a group of high rolling wealthy funders in Boca Raton, Fla.
Observers from longtime political junkies and strategists to casual couch quarterbacks flipping through cable channels seemed transfixed on an unusual moment of transparency for the candidate. Previously, glimpses into Romney World behind the perfectly gelled hair were limited to orchestrated family photos of lakeside vacationing on jet skis.
An unknown source caught the candidate unscripted, talking openly and rather comfortably before a sympathetic audience of one percenters enjoying their $50,000 dinner.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” said Romney. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”
Over the past week, the reactions from partisans on both sides of the aisle were fierce and bloody. Democrats were seizing the newfound video as an opportunity to kick the Republican while he was down, still reeling from over two weeks of stumbles from Clint Eastwood’s infamous empty chair performance to Romney’s own failed “3 a.m. call” test in the wake of Middle East tensions.
"The middle class in America is getting a clearer and clearer picture that the Democratic Party is on their side and the Republican Party is not,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told The Hill. “As a result, it's going to be helpful to our congressional races, to our Senate races and clearly to the presidential race.”
Even Republicans jumped in, piling on their nominee out of fear of what his comments could mean for their chances down-ballot during the election. A parade of GOP House and Senate candidates appeared to distance themselves from the party standard-bearer, with races once in their sights suddenly getting blurred and competitive. "That’s not the way I view the world,” Massachusetts GOP Senator Scott Brown revealed in an email to The Hill, struggling to fend off a spirited challenge from Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren. “As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in. Too many people today who want to work are being forced into public assistance for lack of jobs.”
President Obama’s reaction was measured, but pointed. “My thinking is maybe you haven’t gotten around a lot. American people are the hardest working people I know,” said the president.
Still, the big question insiders want to know is what this new tipping point in the race will actually do to Team Romney as Nov. 6 edges closer. Are Democrats really justified in their glee? Or, should they still be worried about the unknowns: the draining effect Voter ID laws in 30 states will have on the Democratic base, and the specter of political maestro Karl Rove along with a shadowy army of pro-Romney Super PACs raising untold sums of cash.
Hiram College’s Jason Johnson seems to think it’s a wrap. “Yeah, sooooo …. Romney’s pretty much done after this,” quipped Johnson in a random text to The Tribune.
“Democrats really need to take it down a notch,” gloated one well-placed Democratic strategist lamenting what he called “premature elect-elation.”
Independent Florida political activist Monica Betts also reveals a bit of nervousness, looking back on her state’s run-ins with hanging chads and cliffhanger elections. “His remarks are somewhat troubling,” Betts tells The Tribune. “The advantage that Romney has at this point is that fact that African Americans don't vote as they should — leaving Democrats to court Hispanic and Asian voters. The Democrats are aware that they have the majority of the African American votes, but are afraid that the votes won't be enough to win it all. After all, it's all about the Electoral College and how the swing states are moving. Hopefully, this won't be a replay of the Bush-Gore factor.”
Johnson, however, is a bit more optimistic about the president’s chances. “Democrats are perpetually nervous, but I can’t imagine them getting complacent,” said Johnson. “I never thought it’d be anything less than tight. But now I’m pretty convinced Romney won’t be able to gut it out unless he gets a perfect storm. His personal ratings have taken such a hit.”
“When GOP guys are publicly calling him out, it’s a bad sign.”
Still, conservative commentator and TownHall.com Editor Guy Benson thinks the hoopla over Romney’s flub is just that: hoopla.
“The idea that Romney is toast because of this four month old video is way overblown,” counters Benson. “Seems like every week the media decides that Romney does or says something that essentially ends the campaign. That he shot himself in the foot and he has inflicted some sort of fatal blow. And when things emerge that that’s not the case, we move on to the next week.”
Higher education seems destined to be the next platform upon which President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney square off, and Obama’s supporters here, sensing a weakness in Romney’s education policy, used the anniversary of the establishment of the Pell Grant to launch an attack on the former Massachusetts governor.
Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord and Penn State professor Charles Dumas joined a former and current student in a press call in which they blasted Romney and the GOP-led Congress for legislative inactivity that will next week lead to the doubling of school loan interest rates. That, along with the Republican plans to kill off the Pell Grant entirely, is enough to draw a stark contrast between Obama and Romney.
“It’s important the public is reminded that we are eight days away from seeing [interest rates] double if Republicans in Congress do nothing. It means the clock is ticking on 394,000 people in Pennsylvania,” McCord said. “The essential program (Pell Grants) is under attack by Romney and his allies in Congress.” McCord said Romney’s track record on schools should give voters pause come November, mentioning that, while governor of Massachusetts, Romney cut $140 million from that state’s education budget while raising the fees on student loans by 60 percent.
“That forced larger size classes, layoffs of teachers, and the second-largest per-pupil [funding cut] in the state,” McCord said. “Romney supports cuts in federal student aid, and he shows no sign of changing. Romney’s comments on the importance of class sizes and affordability show just how out of touch he is with the real worries of the middle class.”
Born out of the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Federal Pell Grant — once known as the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant — was designed specifically to help needy and low-income students pay for college. Pell Grants are universally accepted by accredited colleges, universities and trade schools, and are considered the basic foundation for any school loan package; the maximum award amount is $5,500, but the overall funding to the Pell Grant program has dwindled in recent years.
Dumas — who is also a candidate for congress — said Obama’s support for higher education also shows that Obama is trying to prop up the economy through American innovation.
“This election is about a choice between two fundamentally different visions for America. Obama understands economic prosperity depends on having the best trained workforce in the world, and Romney’s plan would make it harder for them to go to college,” said Dumas, who also announced the formation of Pennsylvania Educators for Obama. “Mitt Romney’s economic plan is simple: Cut student aid to give massive tax breaks to the wealthy.
“If elected, Romney has vowed to support a budget slashing millions of dollars in Pell Grant funding.”
The idea that supporting higher education today will lead to greater economic gains tomorrow is buoyed by a joint Treasury and Department of Education report, which confirmed that returns on higher education investment have risen in recent years. For example, the average salary of a worker with a bachelor’s degree is 64 percent higher than that of a person holding a high school diploma alone. Tellingly, the report also found that without a degree, children born to parents in the bottom income quintile have a 45 percent chance of remaining there as adults. With a degree, they have less than a 20 percent chance of staying in the bottom quintile of the income distribution.
The report also confirmed that state funding of higher education has declined more than 20 percent over the past two decades, meaning students and parents will have to take out larger loans — which incur the same exorbitant fees Obama is trying cut.
“My hope is people will see through this and tell Congress to stop holding their families hostage,” McCord said. “In the long run, data time and time again shows [affordable higher education] develops jobs.
“We should not be repealing prudent public investment.”
After President Obama expressed his personal support for same-sex marriage, there has been a robust discussion among African Americans about whether his stance will make Black voters less likely to support him in November.
A poll conducted by The Pew Research Center For the People & The Press found that 68 percent of African Americans said Obama’s announcement did not change their view of him. Of those who did alter their perception of the president, 16 percent said his decision caused them to view him more favorably and 13 percent less favorably.
As the debate over gay marriage seemed to be receding from the public stage, the NAACP gave the issue new life Saturday when its board passed a resolution in support of what it artfully calls marriage equality. After adopting the resolution over the weekend, Board Chair Roslyn M. Brock, President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, and board member Donald L. Cash held a press conference Monday in Baltimore to announce what they had already announced.
Even some supporters of same-sex marriage question why the NAACP is spending so much capital on this issue, considering all of the problems plaguing the Black community. The NAACP’s latest announcement comes less than two weeks after the organization announced that it has initiated a national voter registration drive to help overcome recently-erected barriers designed to dilute the Black vote.
Of course, that’s not the only problem facing African Americans.
As the National Urban League observed in its 2012 State of Black America report: “Our analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will clearly establish that whether one looks at education, income or any other meaningful measure, almost all the economic gains that Blacks have made in the last 30 years have been lost in the Great Recession that started in December 2007 and in the anemic recovery that has followed since June, 2009.”
And there is also the issue of HIV/AIDS. According to Centers for Disease Control data analyzed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, African-American women accounted for 64 percent of all new AIDS diagnoses among women in 2010 and 85 percent of the Black women were infected through heterosexual activity.
There is a similar disparity among teens. Although Black teens represent only 17 percent of those aged 13–19 in the United States, they accounted for 70 percent of new AIDS diagnoses among teens in 2012.
Undoubtedly, the debate will continue over how the NAACP should spend its limited resources and whether President Obama should have weighed in on what is essentially a state matter. However, some supporters of same-sex marriage are making the mistake of minimizing the views of many who believe that a marriage should be a union between a man and a woman.
This may be more of a religious issue than a racial one.
A poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found: “More than half of African Americans (53 percent) report attending religious services at least once a week, more than three-in-four (76 percent) say they pray on at least a daily basis and nearly nine-in-ten (88 percent) indicate they are absolutely certain that God exists. On each of these measures, African Americans stand out as the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation.”
Regardless of where one comes down on the issue, it is the height of political naiveté to expect that we will ever find any politician with whom we can agree on every issue. And the nation’s first Black president is no exception.
Opponents of same-sex marriage are quick to quote Leviticus 18:22, which states: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination (KJV).”
If we are going to apply a single-issue test to President Obama, Mitt Romney should not be given a pass.
The Bible also says in Deuteronomy 15:7, “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shall not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother (KJV).”
And what does Romney say about the poor?
“I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it,” he said in an interview with CNN. “I’m not concerned about the very rich; they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
Romney’s support of Republican proposals in Congress designed to gut the safety net is further proof that he is not concerned about the very poor.
If some African Americans, albeit a small number, are seriously considering voting against President Obama solely because they do not agree with his views on same-sex marriage, they should apply a litmus test to Mitt Romney and vote against him because he’s not concerned about the very poor. — (NNPA)
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. Curry can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.