President Obama’s absence at the NAACP convention in Houston this week raised questions among black leaders, black voters and the media. The president attended in 2009 and Michelle Obama spoke at the convention last year. Many hoped the president would address the crowd at this year’s convention as a lead up to the presidential election. He sent Vice President Joe Biden to represent him instead.
The president, who is currently engaged in a contentious campaign with a wealthy opponent, who is now outraising him, is pressed to make difficult decisions about how he’ll appeal to voters this time around. Although he is still the darling of the Democratic Party, his appeal among independents and moderate Republicans is not what it was four years ago.
A speech and appearance that could be seen as a rallying cry for the black community in a campaign that has pitted two social and economic classes against each other might be a moment that blacks attending the NAACP convention could share with their families for generations. On the other hand, those criticizing the president may be overlooking the fact that this same appearance would likely become prime fodder for Republican attack ads.
Buzzfeed spoke to Alvin Chambliss, a retired law professor at Texas Southern University and lifelong members of the NAACP, blamed Obama’s advisers for not making the convention a priority. Chambliss was willing to forgive the president for missing this year’s convention but was still not happy with the White House’s statement that his decision not to attend was due to a scheduling conflict. “We can give him a pass,” Chambliss concluded. “But to say it was a scheduling conflict, that’s bull. At the end of the day, it’s the NAACP; you schedule stuff around them”
Biden told the NAACP crowd that the support of the black community and its engagement in politics is crucial in shaping the future of the country. Biden reminded attendees what’s stake if the president fails to win the White House in November. “They see a different future, where voting is made harder, not easier,” Biden said, “where the Justice Department is even prohibited from challenging any of those efforts to suppress votes.”
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