Politics

African-American leaders and intellectuals express dissatisfaction with President Obama

With President Barack Obama’s approval ratings dipping below 50%, members of his strongest voting bloc have also started to voice displeasure with the way he has chosen to govern.

Since Obama has taken office African Americans have faced a number of disproportionate “highs,” few of them good, such as an exceptionally high unemployment rate, a high foreclosure rate, and a high number of African-American political figures deprived of the president’s support or dismissed from his administration (such as former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, former Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod, South Carolina Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene, former green energy czar Van Jones, Democratic Illinois Sen. Roland Burris, Democratic New York Gov. David Patterson, would-be Democratic New York Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr., and Democratic Reps. Charlie Rangel of New York, Maxine Waters of California and Kendrick Meek of Florida).

Dr. Cornel West, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, is one African-American leader who has been far from pleased with Obama’s neglect of African-American issues. West told The Daily Caller that he has been extremely frustrated with the president’s relative disinterest in civil rights issues.

“He can take the black base for granted because he assumes we have nowhere else to go,” West said. “But we just won’t put up with it. He has got to respect us.”

West is not the only black leader who feels this way. Behind the scenes, West says, many African-American leaders are not happy with Obama’s failure to address issues important to the black community, especially considering the support the community gave the president during the 2008 election. But, according to West, many of those dissatisfied leaders are hesitant to step forward.

“There hasn’t been a lot of talk about it because I think most black spokespeople, at the moment, are scared of the Obama machine,” West said. “A lot of us are trying to put the pressure on him without aiding and abetting the right wing.”

Dr. Wilmer Leon, radio-talk show host and expert on black politics, said that while Obama has actively been distancing himself from the African-American community, few know the best way to push him in the right direction.

“On the one hand many in the community are very frustrated with the president and want him to say more and do more and stop throwing people under the bus,” Leon told TheDC. “But many in the community don’t quite know how to approach him because of the historic nature of his presidency and they don’t want to do the brother in.”

Shelby Steele, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, has written extensively about the fine line the president had to walk in order to be elected. His book, “A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win,” laid out the concessions Obama had to make in order to be elected. According to Steele, Obama is a “bargainer,” who appeals to white sensibilities by eschewing the presumption of racism. This would be in contrast to a “challenger,” or an individual who presumes his white counterpart is racist.