Yesterday we pointed out how support among both the Jewish community and youth vote are down substantially from their 2008 levels. Now we get a look at the African-American community from the Economist regarding the often rocky relationship between Obama and this group and how it may impact turnout in 2012. For both sides who either want to reflexively gripe about or use as a baseline the genuinely incredible level of support in the Black community for Obama in 2008, take a moment to think about what it would be like if you were a minority in a country and experienced usually subtle but occasionally overt racism every day for 20 or 30 or 50 years and you finally get a chance to cast a ballot for someone of your race. You would most likely crawl a mile over broken glass to cast that vote similar to the way Blacks voted in 2008. With that historic vote cast, though, many demons are exorcised and 2012 doesn’t exactly have that same meaning. This group is still overwhelmingly Democrat, but the outsized turnout and support level likely can’t match the last election. That is my entire point when I talk about reduced turnout rates among Blacks expected at the voting booth this November:
It is hardly a secret that black voters love the president (though they may love his wife even more), but the relationship has not always been smooth. If Mr Obama is unique among American presidents, his biography makes him an outlier among black Americans too. He was descended not from slaves, but from an immigrant African father and a white mother. His mother raised him in Hawaii (just 2% black) and Indonesia. In 2007 Hillary Clinton had much higher favourable ratings among blacks than Mr Obama did. Many of Mr Obama’s earliest prominent supporters were white and Jewish, and indeed he has faced consistent criticism, first as a candidate and then as president, for being too aloof from the black community. As president, when Mr Obama has made his race an issue, he has often used it to challenge blacks in ways that a white politician could not. Last autumn he told the congressional black caucus (CBC) to “stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying.” Three years earlier, Candidate Obama delivered a Father’s Day speech at a black church in Chicago, telling black fathers that they needed to “realise that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child. It’s the courage to raise one.” A couple of weeks later an open microphone picked up Jesse Jackson, a civil-rights icon who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1984, saying he wanted to “cut [Mr Obama’s] nuts off” for “talking down to black people”
[P]ressure from the black community has not entirely faded, and with good reason. The economic downturn has hit black Americans particularly hard. A Pew Research Centre study found that in 2009 the median wealth of a white household was 20 times higher than that of a black one: the largest gap since the federal government began tracking wealth data by race in 1984. The median wealth of black households had fallen by 53% over the preceding four years, compared with just 16% for white households. In August 2012 the unemployment rate for blacks was 14.1%. That was down from a high of 16.7% in August 2011, but it still far exceeded the national average of 8.1%.
Both the current and a former head of the CBC have mused that stubborn unemployment, combined with Mr Obama’s perceived aloofness to the high rates of black unemployment, may cause some black voters to stay at home on November 6th. (emphasis added)