WSJ: President Obama Is Asking for Black Votes as a Matter of Racial Solidarity

African american voters watch a D.C. Mayoral candidate forum in Ward 8 in Washington, DC on October 16, 2014. THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES
African american voters watch a D.C. Mayoral candidate forum in Ward 8 in Washington, DC on October 16, 2014. THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES

President Obama and fellow Democrats have been obsessed with the African-American electorate of late, mindful that the party needs high black voter turnout Tuesday to keep the Senate. The implication is that every black American who votes will automatically pull the Democratic lever, and perhaps they will. What is becoming harder to explain is why black Americans would feel any gratitude for the results of Obama Administration policies.

The last six years have been rough on middle class incomes broadly, but even worse for African Americans. Consider some basic economic statistics.

At the start of the President’s first term, the unemployment rate was 12.7% for blacks and 7.1% for whites. Four years later in January 2013 the numbers were 13.8% and 7%, respectively, which means that the black-white employment gap had widened. Today black unemployment is down to 11%, but it’s still more than double the white rate of 5.1%.

Or take the labor participation rate, which measures the share of the working-age population that is employed. The participation rate has sunk to lows last seen in 1978 for all Americans—62.7%, and for whites it is a tick better at 62.8%. But for black Americans it is a full percentage point lower at 61.7%. In December 2013 the rate fell to 60.2 for blacks.

Then there’s the black poverty rate. According to the most recent Census data, the overall U.S. poverty rate fell to 14.5% in 2013 from 15% a year earlier, but among blacks it was unchanged at 27.2%. When Mr. Obama took office, black poverty was 25.8%. By comparison, the white poverty rate was 11.5% in 2009 and 9.6% in 2013.

Median household incomes have fallen for nearly everyone under this President, but blacks are again slightly worse off than other groups. The median black household income fell to $34,598 in 2013 from $38,409 in 2009. For white households it fell to $58,270 from $62,545. Thus the black median household income was 61.4% of the white median in 2009 but had fallen to 59.4% in 2013—one more racial gap that has widened.

This dismal record helps explain why Democratic appeals to blacks this year play up racial fears rather than economic opportunity. Mr. Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have taken to palling around with Al Sharpton to denounce criticism of the President as racially motivated and voter ID laws as a Republican conspiracy to disenfranchise blacks.

After a Democratic pollster circulated a memo noting that more than half of black voters were unaware that an election was coming up on Nov. 4, Democrats took the race-baiting to new lows.

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Source: Wall Street Journal | REVIEW & OUTLOOK

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