By James Wright
New America Media
WASHINGTON – Blacks in the Democratic Party remain enthusiastic about President Obama and his policies despite the ailing economy and a growing concern that the administration is not paying enough attention to the needs of African Americans.
African-American Democratic leaders who attended the Democratic National Committee’s Winter Meeting at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Northwest from Thu., Feb. 24-Sat., Feb. 26, were generous in their praise of Obama.
“I think he is doing a fantastic job,” said Matt Johnson of Los Angeles.
“Whether it is passing health care reform, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, passing the stimulus package and saving the auto industry, President Obama has shown real leadership in these tough times. He is doing just great.”
Obama, the first Black to win the presidency, is extremely popular with African Americans. A recent Gallup Poll reported that the president is approved by 91 percent of Blacks, while he registers positively with 55 percent of Latinos and 36 percent among Whites.
The Black vote played a crucial role in Obama’s win in the 2008 general election. Blacks supported Obama over Republican Party nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 95 percent to 5 percent, respectively.
The heavy Black turnout played a role in Obama winning Southern states such as North Carolina and Virginia. The last Democrat to carry North Carolina was Jimmy Carter in 1976 while Lyndon Johnson was the party’s last nominee in 1964 to carry Virginia.
While Johnson’s home state of California is considered a Democratic certainty in recent presidential elections, that is not the case for Texas. Texas has not supported a Democrat for president since Carter in 1976 and has been a lock for the Republicans since.
One of the Lone Star State’s leading Black Democratic activists is former State Rep. Al Edwards, who is from Houston. Edwards, 73, had been a leader for the “Jesse Jackson for President” campaign in Texas in 1984 and 1988.
Edwards was the chief sponsor of the bill creating June 19th, known as Juneteenth by Black Texans, as a state holiday.
Edwards, who served in the Texas House from 1979 to 2007 and from 2009 to 2011, said that Obama “is doing well.”
“It’s going to take some time for him to turn things around,” he said. “He is not turning around a boat in the middle of the water, he is turning a ship with bad cargo around in the water and that takes longer. The ship is turning though.”
Edwards said that Obama’s health care reform is a reason for the president’s popularity among Blacks. He said he found it interesting that those who oppose Obama’s policies are the “ones who are so opposed to helping their own interests.”
“Obama saved General Motors and Chrysler and his actions saved thousands of jobs,” Edwards said.
“The president has reformed the banking industry and the list goes on regarding what he has done for the country. What he is doing is for everybody.”
McCain defeated Obama in Texas by 11 percentage points. It should be noted that Obama won heavily populated counties that had major cities such as Harris (Houston), Dallas (Dallas), Bexar (San Antonio) and Travis (Austin) in addi-tion to the southern part of the state that is predominantly Latino.
Blacks in Texas tend to be located in the Houston and Dallas metropolitan areas.
While Blacks embrace the president, there are concerns. Some Black personalities, such as author and television show host Tavis Smiley, have said that Obama has not embraced the Black agenda for the uplift of he race.
Still, others like the Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow-Push Coalition and his son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) have been critical of the administration for policies that they deem not to be in the best interest of Blacks, such as the president’s recent budget proposal.
David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, has heard the critics of Obama.
“There are some activists who are complaining because they were expecting some things that were not realistically going to happen,” he said. “But overall, African Americans are satisfied with the president.”
Johnson, 42, said that it was important for Blacks to understand the position that Obama is in.
“We must remember that Obama is president of our country, not president of just the Democrats,” he said.
Edwards said that he understands that there is unease among some Blacks regarding the president.
“That can be cured by better outreach by the White House,” he said. “That is something we need to talk about.”
The criticisms are small compared to the goal of Blacks Democrats in 2012.
“No constituency has been more loyal to this party than African Americans and there is nothing more important than getting President Obama re-elected,” said Clyde Williams, the DNC’s outgoing national political director and a District resident.
Edwards and Johnson said that Blacks will turnout in large numbers in their respective states and nationally to put Obama back in the White House next year.
“There is no question that Blacks will turn out to vote to re-elect the president,” he said.
“If I were a betting man, I would say that he would be the favorite to be re-elected. What really matters are how well the economy is doing and how things shake up in the next year and a half.”