Obama the Racist: Does the President Worry Too Much About Minorities?


Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

In the middle of October, a memorandum from a former pollster for President Barack Obama was leaked to the New York Times, and it contained a dire warning for the Democratic party. Written early last month for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Cornell Belcher’s assessment predicted “crushing Democratic losses across the country” if the party did not draw black voters to the polls. “African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well-positioned to do so again in 2014,” he wrote. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.” His warning highlights a key directive for the Democratic party; in order to have any chance at holding onto the Senate majority — which nearly every major poll shows is practically impossible — voter turnout among blacks must be high in four key states. According to an analysis of voter data conducted by the Times, African-American voters could help swing election results in Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and possibly Arkansas. Black voters will also be key in Kentucky, where Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic Senate candidate, is facing down Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Numbers prove the truth behind Blecher’s assessment. Exit polling data shows that in 2012, black voters turned out in record numbers to re-elect Barack Obama. But — because far fewer voters, especially younger voters and Democrat voters turn out for midterms — the 2010 election was quite different. Blacks voted at a far lower rate than whites, creating what is known as a “turnout gap.” Blecher’s assessment also served as call-to-action for the Obama administration and the Democratic party.

At-risk Democrat senators are organizing field operatives to register voters. The DNC has funneled tens of millions of dollars into efforts to target possible voters and ensure they cast ballots. President Barack Obama has been silently campaigning to hard-to-appeal-to African-American voters through interviews on urban radio stations with large black audiences, video advertisements, and conducting telephone calls targeting the African-American voter base. Advertisements in black newspapers urge voters to “Get His [Obama’s] Back.” His voting pitch circulated across radio waves warning voters of the risks of a Republican-controlled Senate: Tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, more limited safety nets for working class families, weaker regulation of Wall Street and pollution, and antiquated policies that hurt women. “I’ll bet there are a whole bunch of folks listening to your show who may not even know that there’s an election going on,” the president told host Rickey Smiley on his radio show that plays on stations throughout Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and across the South and Midwest. “I need everybody to go vote,” he added.

Obama’s focus on turning out the black vote has earned the president some strong criticism. Economist Ben Stein — a one-time speechwriter for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford — told Shannon Bream, anchor of Fox News’ “America’s News Headquarters,” that the president was using “outrageous lies” to convince black voters to cast their ballots in the midterms, warning of the legislation and entitlement cuts Republicans would enact if they win control of the Senate, or as Stein said, claiming “the GOP is against letting them have a chance at a good life in this economy.” That Democrats have suggested “that the economy is being used to oppress minorities” is an “outrageous lie,” he added. Stein believes “the idea that the Republicans are making life difficult for black people is just nonsense, just absolute nonsense,” as he told Fox News. “They might as well say Republicans are coming down from the moon.”

When asked whether Republicans have made financial survival more difficult for lower-class Americans by cutting social services and programs that help the poor and minorities, Stein explained that the “cuts have been absolutely miniscule,” noting that there are now more people on food stamps and welfare than ever before:

I watch with fascination – with incredible fascination – all the stories about how the Democratic politicians, especially Hillary [Clinton], are trying to whip up the African-American vote and say, “Oh, the Republicans have policies against black people in terms of the economy.” But there are no such policies.

In his estimation, Republicans have done much to improve the lives of the poor and black Americans, pointing to the fact that Republicans supported policies that prevented the financial crisis from turning into a real economic catastrophe, and that the GOP was the party that passed civil rights legislation in the 1960’s. And, in his opinion, the GOP has not done a bad job at changing the party’s negative image, but rather minorities who feel targeted by Republicans are merely creating excuses to vote for Obama, even though he acknowledged that “they are allowed to feel however they want.”

Simply put, Stein believes that the president is presenting lies as facts merely to help Democrats hold onto vulnerable Senate seats. And Obama’s exploitation of minority voters, especially blacks, is evidence that the White House is attempting to racialize all politics. In fact, he claimed Obama was the “most racist president there has ever been,” because he is “purposefully using race to divide Americans.”

But Obama is far, far from being the most racist U.S. president to date. Twelve presidents — more than a quarter of the men who have served as chief executive — owned slaves; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses S. Grant all were slaveowners. In fact, George Washington had as many as 250 to 300 slaves while president.

Other presidents who may not have owned slaves are guilty of not only discriminatory policies but also incredibly prejudiced views of African-Americans. In a 1913 letter, Theodore Roosevelt expressed support of the research of a leading American eugenicist, Charles Davenport:

Society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind….Some day, we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type, is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type.

While Woodrow Wilson earned a reputation as a progressive Democrat, he also passed legislation making interracial marriage illegal. Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency saw the internment of 100,000 Japanese Americans. Richard Nixon was caught on White House types using racial slurs, while Lyndon Johnson called the Civil Rights Act the “n—-r bill,” even though he did sign it into law.

By comparison, Obama has said less about race than any other president.

More From Politics Cheat Sheet:

Follow Meghan on Twitter @MFoley_WSCS