Black Leaders to Obama: You Owe Us

Black Leaders to Obama: You Owe Us

Black voters turned out in record numbers in key swing states like Ohio to reelect President Barack Obama in 2012, and some of the nation’s most prominent black leaders are now demanding Obama pay back this support in his second term with policies that favor black and urban communities. 

National Urban League President Marc Morial sent a letter to Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) after the election, urging them to put “a special focus on those communities where unemployment is and remains stubbornly and persistently high.”

“We who represent the nation’s urban communities will demand a seat at the table in these discussions,” Morial wrote. 

Al Sharpton met with Obama last week and said “the president heard us loud and clear” about raising taxes on those making over $250,000 during the fiscal cliff negotiations and not cutting spending on programs that impact the middle and working class. 

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous also implied that Obama should raise taxes on the wealthy: “we need Republicans to think hard and to pull back from the cliff 98 percent of our families, who make up the bulk of this nation, from seeing our taxes being raised.”

Nowhere was black voter turnout more important than in Ohio, where a historic turnout (blacks make up 12% of Ohio’s population but made up 15% of the state’s 2012 electorate) propelled Obama to vicyory:

In 2012, blacks made up 15% of Ohio’s electorate, and Obama received 96% of their vote to Mitt Romney’s 4%. 

In 2008, black turnout made up 11% of Ohio’s electorate, and Obama won blacks by 95 points (97%-2%) over John McCain.

In 2004, black voters accounted for 10% of the vote Ohio. John Kerry received 84% of the black vote, while George W. Bush received 16%, five points above Bush’s national average among blacks.

In Michigan, black voters made up 16% of the electorate in 2012, up from 12% in 2008. In Virginia, blacks made up 20% of the electorate in 2008 and 2012.

According to exit polls, black women in 2008 had the highest turnout rate — 69% — of all groups. And in 2012, “black women made up 60 percent of the black vote this year and voted 95 percent for Obama.

Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, said the enthusiasm of black women was evident in places like Florida where churches organized “Souls To the Polls” early voting campaigns. She recounted, “countless women stood in line for hours to vote early so they could volunteer to work at the polls,” because they were motivated by the Obama campaign’s claims that Republicans were trying to suppress the black vote.

Blacks voted for Obama in record numbers even though some black leaders worried voters would stay at home because Obama had not improved their economic situations and some thought Obama was not liberal enough. 

But their worries turned out to be unfounded, as black voters turned out as enthusiastically as they did in 2008, even though Obama’s economy has been responsible for unemployment skyrocketing in black communities. According to the Associated Press, black unemployment was 12.7% when Obama took office, peaked at 16.5% a year later, and was at 14.3% in October. Nationally, the current unemployment rate is 7.9 percent.