Campaign spending everywhere, but little for the Black press
Has the president forgotten his political base?
In 2008, the presidential elections cost a record-setting $2.8 billion. To win that election, Barack Obama spent $740.6 million, eclipsing the combined $646.7 that George W. Bush and John Kerry spent four years earlier. Obama’s spending accounted for 44 percent of all the money spent in that campaign.
A Wall Street analyst projects that 2012 spending for ads across all media will easily surpass the $2.8 billion mark.
Obama inherited a country in severe economic recession, a real estate market that was belly up, and an auto industry that was on the verge of collapse—General Motor’s shares had tumbled to $3.36 per share. In his first post-election press conference, Obama called the automakers “the backbone of American manufacturing” as thousands of auto industry employees belonged to unions that are a part of the democratic base.
The financial “bailouts” of 2009—$17.4 billion for General Motors and Chrysler, $6 billion for GMAC, $1.5 billion for Chrysler Financial—while great for those companies and the many others that received stimulus aid, had no visual and significant impact on the Black community.
So many African Americans remain disillusioned about the benefits of the Obama presidency, and the financially depressed Black press wonders why it has been overlooked.
The Black press is the undisputed bedrock of Obama’s political base. National Newspaper Publishers Association member newspapers carry positive stories about President Obama and his administration on a weekly basis. Obama lives because of the Black press and the Black church and he is now in a position to utilize their services and expertise and provide a financial stimulus to this struggling entity. A budget of $20 million should adequately serve to inform, educate and influence the African American vote—which is a significant part of the democratic base.
While it is true that African Americans represent 13.6 percent of the U.S. population, and do not possess the numbers to elect a U.S. president on their own, it is also true that African Americans are often the market that makes the difference in the bottom lines of many corporations. Equally true is the fact that they provide the margin of victory in many local and national elections.
African American political and economic power did not rise from the dust of slavery without powerful forces working together, namely, the Black church, and the Black press. Without the combined efforts of these institutions, there would be no Barack Obama sitting in the White House today. His victory is a testimony to the advocacy of the stalwarts in the Black church—Martin Luther King, Adam Clayton Powell, Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X, Al Sharpton—and the Black press—John Russworm, Frederick Douglass, John Henry Murphy Sr., Robert S. Abbott, John Sengstacke, C B Powell, etc.
Past NNPA Chairman Danny Bakewell Sr., a longtime civil rights advocate and publisher of the Los Angles Sentinel, reminds all who will listen that there is neither a Black politician nor corporate CEO who has attained his/her position without the help of the Black press. Countless speakers addressing the organization acknowledge that they would not be in their current position if it were not for the Black press.
Therefore, it makes me wonder why the Obama campaign organizers cannot grasp the importance of the Black press in their campaign spending. Following is a scenario that could cause Obama to lose the elections.
The voter ID campaign can cause Obama to lose his margin of victory in several states.
While there may be nothing wrong with being required to have a voter ID, the Black press and the Black church must address this issue and provide information and encouragement to the Black community to overcome it.
College students, African Americans, and especially the elderly, were unstoppable in getting to the voting booths in 2008 because they were determined to participate in an historic election.
Without a valid voter ID many of those same voters will be turned away from the polls. The motivation that was there in 2008 is no longer there for the 2012 election. The miracle has already happened. A Black man is in the White House. The question now is, how do we keep him there? In face of strong opposition, Obama must attend to this segment of his base which is influenced and encouraged by the Black press and the Black church.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association represents Black newspapers across the U.S. The organization has member papers in every state, reaching readers in cities, towns, metro areas, villages and hamlets across the country. Some publishers are proprietors and affiliates of local radio stations. The organization has an in-house advertising placement facility thereby maintaining control of placements and ensuring that the advertising messages are evenly and equitably distributed.
Of the $740 million spent in 2008 by the Obama campaign, $235 million was spent on broadcast advertising. Approximately $1 million was spent with 200 NNPA newspapers across the country, averaging one ad per newspaper, which is tokenism at best. This year it is estimated that his campaign spending will exceed $1 billion.
The Black press needs to be encouraged to get Obama re-elected. There needs to be a national campaign of advertising and editorials relating to the importance of the voter ID laws and going to the polls and voting. This is a critical issue and no other medium will address it as diligently and as effective as the Black press. While the Black press does its part by providing editorial support, it needs compensation to do its job effectively.
By Walter Smith | New York Beacon
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