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Can Obama reach common ground without selling out black base?

November 4, 2010 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( As a result of the midterm elections, Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives while Democrats retain control of the Senate. House Speaker-to-be John Boehner (R-OH) has pledged to “listen to the American people and to focus on their priorities.”

Republicans have indicated that one of their first orders of business will be to repeal and replace the Obama administration’s health care reform bill. This comes as no surprise since they have always tied the defeat of health care reform to the demise of the president. In July of last year, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) said, “If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him,” he said.

President Obama stated in his press conference yesterday, “I told John Boehner and Mitch McConnell last night, I am very eager to sit down with members of both parties and figure out how we can move forward together.” The challenge for this president will be to find common ground with a group of people who oppose him for who he is not what he stands for. How does the president work with this new crop of conservatives whose ire has been focused as much on race and ethnicity as pubic policy?

According to Rep. Pete King (R-NY), President Obama is “probably the most threatened president ever.” Most of these threats are not because of health care reform, the stimulus bill, or the problems with Israel. There are still too many people in America that refuse to allow him to govern as the president; they will oppose him at every turn because he’s an African-American who is the president.

Contrary to Boehner’s pledge to work with the president and “listen to the American people and to focus on their priorities,” the focus of Republican leadership has primarily been to resist the president at the expense of the American people. Again, the resistance is not based upon what he stands for but for who he is. They intentionally employed a “block-and-blame” strategy that left the American people with the sense that Congress was ineffective.

All Americans have benefited from the Obama administration’s passage of the first minimum wage increase a decade, the largest single increase in college student aid since the GI bill, expanded health insurance coverage for a considerable number of Americans with the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children and allowing parents to keep children up to age 26 on their health insurance,enforcement of equal pay for women, and credit card reform. But for some reason, according to Gallup polls in September 2010, African-Americans gave President Obama a 91 percent average job approval rating to 36 percent average rating with whites.

How does President Obama find common ground with racially insensitive Tea Partiers and other far right Republicans without alienating his base — specifically African-Americans voters who have been among his most loyal supporters? I don’t know that he can. They say the firs step towards recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Maybe it’s time we recognize them for what they are and call it for what it is.

Written By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III

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