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Obama promises ‘better days’ for African-Americans
Question of the Day
“Our parents have been through tougher times,” Mr. Obama said. “Our grandparents have been through tougher times. We know tough times.”
“If we are persistent, if we are unified, and we remain hopeful, then we’ll get through these tough times and better days lie ahead,” he continued.
The White House had organized the conference, bringing together elected officials, professors, faith and civil rights leaders from across the country to meet with several White House and Cabinet officials for a series of discussions and workshops.
Many of the speakers, including White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes, discussed how the tough economy has hit the black community especially hard, and the president’s efforts to protect the interests of low-income and middle-class families.
The president faced an uproar within the black community in late September after urging a predominantly black audience at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation awards dinner in Washington to stop criticizing him and “take off your bedroom slippers” and work for his re-election.
“I expect all of you to march with me and press on,” Mr. Obama said. “Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying.”
Several prominent members of the black community, including PBS commentator Tavis Smiley, criticized the president’s language as racially tinged and stereotypical.
“How does he get away with saying this to black folk, when he would never form his lips to ever say that to any other constituency?” Smiley said at the time.
The constituency is one that Mr. Obama cannot afford to alienate in any way. About 95 percent of blacks voted for him in 2008. But with black unemployment at nearly an all-time high of 16.7 percent, there has been growing criticism among black leaders that the president’s policies aren’t helping their community.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released in mid-September showed that the percentage of blacks who have “strongly favorable” views of the president dropped from 83 percent five months ago to 58 percent now.
Mr. Obama’s campaign advisers have said they are confident he will retain the same level of support from black voters next year. But the danger is that the weak economy, and remarks that offend, could keep blacks from turning out in sufficient numbers to carry Mr. Obama to another victory.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.
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About the Author
Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at email@example.com.
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