Besides the regular hyper-intensity issues of gun control, comprehensive immigration reform, Israel and the Palestinians, Iran’s nuclear quest, North Korea’s quixotic belligerence, and basic ill-mannerism from Republican congresspeople, President Obama, who can’t seem to get a break, must now contend with a growing dissatisfaction from his fundamental base–African Americans.
Sure, the unemployment rate for African Americans is still too high–as it is for the country in general–and Stop-and-Frisk, Chicago drive-bys and police excessive shooting of young Black men are major and growing concerns within the various African American communities within the USA. But the POTUS not appointing any more Blacks to his second-term Cabinet is also a hot-button, overt issue. The prevailing sentiment is, it’s OK to take care of everybody else–no problem–but please take care of your home base too. If we can’t be the first chosen, at least include us in the final picture somewhere.
In the president’s first term, he appointed a very diverse set of Cabinet members, including five women, four African Americans, three Hispanics, and two Asian Americans. For his second term, he has yet to appoint any African Americans, and only Attorney General Eric Holder, who returned from the first term, and Susan Rice as U.N. Ambassador, remain in the Cabinet.
The Congressional Black Caucus has recently become very vocal about this seeming disregard of talented Black candidates. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the current CBC chair, interviewed a few days ago on CNN and softly asked the questions, “Aren’t we able?” and “Why are we being left on the sidelines?” Black voters supported the president by a 93-percent to 5-percent margin in the last election, and, to a growing cacophony of Black critics, where’s the quid pro quo? Everybody else seems to have shared in the second term bounty, so where’s our portion?
This is not an area of disapproval that will dissipate politely or lightly. It threatens to invoke the strongest political emotion readily responded to by the combined Black community, that of being taken for granted, disrespected or disregarded. The president does not need to allow any significant erosion of Black community support. It is the base from which he flies, and is the most solid and reliable among the American constituency. So, hopefully, he will take heed and will handle this before it spirals out of control.
Sure, Susan Rice will, in all likelihood, be named National Security Advisor–a Cabinet post that needs no senatorial ratification–and that will maintain the two Cabinet assignments with Black faces. That’ll help, but naming a Black expert as Commerce Secretary would help even more. That is the sole remaining senior Cabinet post not already designated, and the Interim Secretary, Rebecca Blank, just resigned from the Obama administration this week to take the job as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade representative would be an able replacement). The POTUS might also name Ambassador Rice to the National Security post, and name another African American to replace her at the U.N.
But however it is done, some progress needs to be made in that regard. Ebony and Jet magazines have created a whole generation of African Americans who still dote on the numbers of Blacks in a rare arena, who was the first Black, and so on. It’s just the way we are.
Meanwhile, for those who really want the POTUS to finish out strong, to leave an enviable legacy and record of achievement, it is highly recommended that you begin focusing on electing more Democrats to Congress. Presidential charm, offensive or not, the Tea Party faction is too strongly committed to its wrong-headed pathway and still too delusionally convinced that Republicans were not skunked and rebuked in the last election to make any changes in their demeanor. They will continue to oppose “the Black guy in the White House” for the rest of the president’s term of office, and that is simply a fact.
Democrats need at least 18 more seats in the House, while holding on to the ones they currently have, in order for the president to have the legislative constituency he needs to get some really big and important things done, like significant national infrastructural renovation and repair. Sure, immigration reform will probably be done anyway, like the recent renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, because of public pressure and political necessities.
But the president actually has a lot bigger vision than that. He just needs the players on the field to be a bit different, at least for his final two years. So, looking ahead to 2014, folks, prepare to put more Democratic House members into office. Organize and implement. Anything less, and we’ll all just have our dander relentlessly raised as we listen to more and more nonsense as less and less politically gets done.
Remember, anyone can complain–even idiots and ignoramuses–but nothing changes the political context but good people working hard and going long.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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