Why Obama Can't Reignite the Democratic Base

Broken promises will likely lead to a massive failure of turnout for Democrats at the polls.

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By Ron Bonjean, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

It seems surreal to hear that the White House is announcing plans, six months before the November elections, to energize its base and appeal to such distinct groups as African-Americans, Latinos, and younger voters. Weren’t they supposed to have been helping these groups all along? After all, these people were a crucial voting bloc for the Democratic Party in 2008.

However, all is not well within the ranks. The Congressional Black Caucus had a meeting with President Obama last month to complain that their constituents were not seeing the positive change promised during the campaign. And a new Washington Post/ABC News poll reports that less than a third of all voters now say they will vote for their Members of Congress in November. Maybe this situation was created because the White House made healthcare reform their singular goal for over a year, ignoring other priorities.

Even with a newly announced goal of passing immigration reform, it may be very difficult to reignite the levels of intensity that propelled the Democratic Party to the White House. Just take a look at a few important facts:

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that African-American unemployment jumped to 16.5 percent in March, up from 15.8 percent in February. Hispanic unemployment rose to 12.6 percent. These numbers are much higher than the nation’s unemployment rate, which still hovers at 9.7 percent.
  • America’s young workers haven’t seen positive change. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, one of these groups is workers age 16-24, whose unemployment rate peaked at 19.2 percent. And African-American 16-24 year-old workers had the highest rate, starting 2010 at 32.5 percent, followed by Hispanics at 24.2 percent.
  • The percentage of investments made by the Small Business Administration supporting Small Business Investment Companies in minority-owned firms has dropped from 26 percent in 1998 to about 7 percent today.
  • Some 80 percent of Hispanic seniors making less than $20,000 per year were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage program, according to 2007 data--and yet the Obama healthcare law cuts $132 billion from this program. A Medicare analysis released last week shows at least half of all Medicare Advantage enrollees will lose their plan, while others will see higher premiums and lower benefits.
  • These points do not include the many bad policy proposals that have yet to become law, such as President Obama’s 2010 budget, which cuts $85 billion in education funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities at a time when they are underfunded during a recession.

    A White House press officer recently said, “The President’s view is that good policy is good politics.” Failed promises to pass policies to create conditions for higher income, more jobs, and better health care coverage will likely lead to a massive failure of turnout for Democrats at the polls.

    Republicans should not ignore these voters and let them stay home on Election Day. They have an incredible opportunity to communicate how their policies of growth and opportunity will better help America’s minorities and youth. Even getting a few percentage points of support could make a difference in deciding who will lead the House and Senate next year.

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