Has Clinton Done More for the African-American Community than Obama?

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In 1998, I was not quite in sync with literary icon Toni Morrison when she wrote of President Bill Clinton: “White skin notwithstanding, this is our first black president.”

She was making a provocative point about the aggressively negative treatment Clinton received from wide swaths of the media and political world. Her specific proof was not off base, if tongue-in-cheek.
“Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime,” Morrison wrote. “After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.”
But regardless, it seemed a bit disjointed to use the moniker, “first black president,” for a man who — while sympathetic to the circumstances of Americans of African descent — had not and could not experience what it actually means to live as a black man.
So, no, I couldn’t get on board with the notion that Clinton was our first black president — even if the statement was made almost solely to spur political conversation.
But as I had learned in Virginia during the fall of 1989 — and then through travels across the country — Americans should not be underestimated. I felt voters were closer to electing a black president than conventional wisdom suggested.
The national electorate confirmed my hunch in November 2008, choosing Barack Obama, a darker-skinned man of mixed racial heritage, to be chief executive. He is a gentleman I proudly campaigned nationwide to elect.
All of a sudden, during both Morrison’s and my lifetime — not just our children’s — America elected a black president, in a spirit of hope and optimism painted in votes from all hues across the human rainbow.
Yet here we sit, more than three years after Obama’s win, and too many people are pulling me aside in private to ask why his standing in the African-American community has softened since his Inauguration. They also question whether the reduced excitement among young and new voters — with that lack of enthusiasm from African-Americans — might hinder Obama’s 2012 campaign.
This has forced me to think back to Morrison’s comment.
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SOURCE: Politico
L. DOUGLAS WILDER