The NAACP Annual Convention was held in Houston, July 7 – 12, 2012, at the George R. Brown Convention Center and featured speeches from Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Vice President Joe Biden. Noticeably absent from the convention was President Barack Obama, who hasn’t spoken to the group since he became President of the United States.
The National Urban League Annual Conference will be held in New Orleans, July 25-28 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where President Obama is scheduled to speak to attendees. The National Urban League contacted Mitt Romney about speaking at the conference, but he declined due to scheduling conflicts.
The main characters in the above storyline stand out like a sore thumb; President Obama, Mitt Romney and ‘the blacks’.
Just who are ‘the blacks’ actually?
It’s been a little over three months since real estate mogul Donald Trump appeared on Talk 1300 AM radio in Albany, N.Y., saying that he was troubled by President Barack Obama’s high standing among African Americans.
It was on that radio show where Trump sought to “validate” his street credibility with black people by saying, “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”
Trump was responding to Quinnipiac Poll that showed that 95% of blacks in New York were backing President Obama and a Gallup Poll that showed that more than eight out of 10 blacks across the nation supported Obama.
It appears that when it comes to major issues in this country, ‘the blacks’ take center stage in politics and the media.
Remember it was roughly six months ago, when at a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, then-Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”
Why did ‘the blacks’ get singled out by Santorum concerning entitlement reforms?
Or when then-Republican candidate Newt Gingrich told supporters that he planned to “go to the NAACP convention and tell the African-American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps.”
Gingrich has repeatedly referred to President Barack Obama as a “food stamp president”, and gave his solution to addressing ‘black’ teen unemployment by changing the current child labor laws so that poor ‘black’ kids could work as janitors in their schools instead of union workers.
Why did ‘the blacks’ get singled out by Gingrich concerning food stamps and employment solely?
Have ‘the blacks’ become the easiest target to attack and ignore?
It is no secret that the unemployment rate in the African-American community is staggering and a solution sought after.
President Barack Obama was invited to speak at the NAACP Convention to address this and other issues affecting ‘the blacks’ in America. Obama’s re-election campaign insisted that a “scheduling conflict” kept the president from being able to speak at this year’s NAACP convention and thus Vice President Joe Biden spoke in his place.
Joe Biden is, of course, not President Obama. This decision caused the White House and Obama’s re-election campaign to be hit with questions as to why he would decline to speak at the NAACP and send his surrogate, while Mitt Romney; the presumptive Republican nominee chose to address the group.
Joe Biden gave a stirring speech to the NAACP audience, often garnering applause when he addressed the accomplishments of the administration and the issues African-Americans face in this country.
In direct contrast to Biden, Romney was booed during his remarks when he made the bold decision to declare he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature health care law. Romney was met with a round of boos during his speech, when he said, “I’m going to eliminate every non-essential expensive program I can find. That includes Obamacare.”
Romney paused for about 15 seconds, looking over the crowd like a proud poppa, seemingly enjoying the boos and hisses. Many in the crowd felt as if Romney disrespected them in their own house.
NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous stated that Romney’s plans did not meet the interests of the audience. “His criticism of the Affordable Care Act -- legislation that will improve the access to quality health care for millions -- signals his fundamental misunderstanding of the needs of many African Americans,” Jealous stated.
NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock gave a broader rebuke of Romney’s policies.
“This morning Gov. Romney laid out his policy agenda for this nation. Unfortunately, much of his agenda is at odds with what the NAACP stands for,” said Brock. “We appreciate that he was courageous and took the opportunity to speak with us directly.”
Darrell Goode, NAACP branch president in Santa Monica/Venice, said that he believes Romney shouldn’t be given praise because he spoke at the conference. “We are a well-established organization,” said Goode. “I believe every candidate for president should seek to speak to the NAACP.”
Romney received more jeers when he boldly declared to the audience, “If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community, you’re looking at him.”
Immediately after the speech, Romney is quoted as saying at a fundraiser later that evening:
“By the way, I had the privilege of speaking today at the NAACP convention in Houston and I gave them the same speech I am giving you. I don’t give different speeches to different audiences alright. I gave them the same speech. When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s ok, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy-more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free. It has to be paid for by people in the private sector creating goods and services, and if people want jobs more than they want free stuff from government, then they are going to have to get government to be smaller.”
Romney has indicated that he plans to aggressively compete for the ‘black’ vote.
Romney and Obama will be swapping roles on next week, when the National Urban League Annual Conference kicks off in New Orleans. Obama will speak and Mitt Romney declined due to scheduling conflicts after being contacted by the National Urban League office.
The Urban League released a report ahead of the president’s July 25th speech scheduled for opening day at its national convention in New Orleans, indicating that President Barack Obama may have a tougher time winning at least three battleground states in November should black voter turnout fall at least 5 percentage points below the record levels that helped to put him in the White House.
Marc Morial, National Urban League president, said the African-American vote should not be thought of as static, even if black voters are expected to overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Obama. “We wanted to point out that turnout makes a difference and African American turnout makes a difference,” Morial said.
Black voter turnout of 64.7 percent was a significant factor in Obama’s victory in 2008, and African Americans are considered solidly behind Obama now. But having achieved the milestone of electing Obama as the nation’s first black president, black voters may be less motivated to return to the polls in droves again, the National Urban League said in a report to be released Tuesday.
Assuming no change in 2008 voting patterns, Urban League researchers said, black turnout at about 60 percent or below could cost Obama North Carolina and make it difficult for him to win Ohio and Virginia. In addition to diminished voter enthusiasm, the still-ailing economy, persistent high unemployment among blacks, new state voting laws and limited growth in the African American population could help discourage turnout.
So, ‘the blacks’ appear to be as important to President Obama as they were in 2008 and could be the catalyst behind another four-year term for Obama or the beginning of a Romney presidency in America.