Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Has President Obama Become The Head Gate Keeper?

Has President Obama Become The Head Gate Keeper?
by Harry C. Alford
NNPA Columnist

(NNPA) - In November 2008 the Black component of the Democratic Party was flying sky high. We just elected our first Black president at lightening speed. It appeared the replacement for his senate seat would go, by default, to another Black leader. We had two Black governors in the key states of Massachusetts (Deval Patrick) and New York (David Patterson). The environment was beckoning all potential Black leaders to adjust their goals upward and shoot for it all. Black political power was real and it was charging like a big steam roller.

Mysteriously, something happened along our way to the year 2010. The Obama Administration has fewer Blacks in key positions than the first administrations of Bush and Clinton.

Is this progress? Time will tell but at least the inspiration for campaigning for the top congressional, state and city offices is apparently undeniable. It is undeniable but there appears to be some very strong resistance from the top office in the land. Presidents, who have political capital, share that with aspiring party mates. They endorse, raise money and just by visiting and appearing with the candidates they can propel a rising star to victory. Not only is there reticence but there is apparent push back or discouragement.

Has the first Black president become the “HNIC” of the Democratic political gate? Let’s look at some glaring examples.

The state of New York is very key to the two party political system. There are significant electoral votes and a large population and money base that any political party with some common sense would want to court. The state has its first Black governor and he is going to need a lot of support from the Democratic National Committee and a strong push from the pool of other Black political players. However, he is not getting the support or even encouragement from President Obama.

In fact, the President has told him to consider stepping out of the race. That’s right. He is asking for him to disappear.

It gets worse. Black city councilman Bill Thompson should have won the recent New York City mayoral race. He would have with just some decent interaction by President Obama. A few fundraisers, photo opportunities and strong words of encouragement from the White House probably would have done the trick. Instead, there was practically nothing. The only praise went to his opponent, independent incumbent Mayor Bloomberg. Thompson raised $9 million while Bloomberg spent more than $100 million (much of his own). In the end, Thompson lost by just 4.5 percent. President Obama’s involvement would have made a difference. A close friend of candidate Thompson sums it up, “The first Black President who tells the first Black governor to get out and he won’t help the guy who wants to be the second Black mayor? The irony is thick.” Yes it is.

Congressman Harold Ford recently announced that he will be running for the New York senate seat that was previously held by Hillary Clinton.

All hell has broken loose. Here’s a guy who is supposed to be in the Democratic National Committee inner circle and they are throwing everything at him to stop his plans.

Shouldn’t they be encouraging them?
In addition to the New York City mayoral race, two other major cities had close races. In Atlanta, Kasim Reed barely won. He had to go through a runoff and then a recount but he barely edged out his opponent. Funny, all he needed was a little support from the White House but this Black man barely beat out a white candidate who appealed to the extreme conservative right. In Atlanta, we were lucky.

We were not so lucky in Houston. This city which is majority minority had a similar close race. In a runoff, candidate Gene Locke lost to his white opponent. Locke also has strong credentials and just needed strong support coming in to assist. It never came.

Senator Roland Burris should be gearing up for his re-election in Illinois. He holds the seat Obama had but he is being bludgeoned by the powers to be. His fundraising infrastructure has been destroyed and they want him to go away big time. In the end, I feel the Republican Party, which is now amused by this, will take this seat at the next election.

Congressman Kendrick Meek is running for the Florida senate seat while Artur Davis has announced his bid for Governor of Alabama. They, too, are meeting resistance from those we would think would embrace their endeavors and fully support them. President Obama, just what is going on? We need to get our act together and support what the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement provided for us. The above activity coupled with the recently exposed racist remarks by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid causes us to wonder: “Have things actually gotten better?”

Harry Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org

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