Many pundits and pollsters predict that President Barack Obama is poised to win re-election on November 6th, but what if he loses? And how will black America respond?
On the eve of the presidential election, two major polls show President Obama as the favorite to win. And the prediction markets give him somewhere between a 70 percent and more than an 80 percent chance of winning. And yet, the only poll that ultimately matters is on Election Day. Anything can happen, and black America could wake up to a Mitt Romney victory on November 7.
An Obama loss would almost certainly disappoint African Americans, and could engender any number of emotions, including hopelessness and gloom. The racial polarization of this election cycle—combined with allegations of voter suppression against minorities and other groups– could also lead to resentment if blacks believe the election was unfairly administered, if not stolen. However, such circumstances could also embolden black voters and create a sense of urgency that it is time to rebuild.
For black voters, the stakes are high.
“This is the most significant political season we have seen in a long time,” said Rev. David Bullock, head of the Detroit Chapter of Rainbow-PUSH. “Malcolm X said something very important in that there are only two ways to change America. You will only change America by saying ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ Or you will change America by entering the ballot box.”
Rev. Bullock told theGrio this election is about national priorities, and whether the country spends more on national defense or education.
Turnout by the base could prove decisive for an Obama victory. “Hopefully, before he loses, black people will do everything they can to ensure that the best person–and I do think that out of the two that President Obama is the best–is the president of the United States,” said Phillip Jackson, the executive director of the Black Star Project, a Chicago-based educational program providing mentoring to thousands of students and parents through its Saturday University program. “I would hope that he would win and that the community would be energized,” he added.
Jackson also thinks an Obama loss would be devastating. “Black America is already in trouble, so that would be compiling those feelings of hopelessness, those feelings of weakness. We’re already in trouble. We’re already the most challenged ethnic group in this country. And so now, you’re talking about losing an African-American president? It would be devastating. You would almost see African-Americans crying in the street,” he said.
Further, some in the community fear black voters lack an awareness of what is at stake. An issue of concern to one African American leader is complacency and apathy among black voters, a lack of interest in being engaged in the electoral process.
“Some of y’all sitting here right now know you ain’t voting. That’s how we ended up with [Michigan Gov.] Rick Snyder. Some of y’all voted for him,” said Rev. Charles Williams III, president of the Michigan chapter of National Action Network. Rev. Williams believes the black electorate must make a concerted effort to retake the White House.
“Here we are in 2012. We have Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, cell phones, iPads, iPhones and we still can’t seem to get together on how we’re going to do this thing,” Williams said. “Fannie Lou Hamer… was beat up in a jail cell because she was trying to register folks in Mississippi to vote. Medgar Evers was slain in his driveway….There ain’t no dogs biting you. There ain’t nobody shooting at you. Ain’t nobody beating you up, and you’re just too lazy and selfish to get up, get out, and vote? It’s time to get up,” Williams admonished a crowd at a voter rally in Detroit.
Despite the gains made since the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s—including civil rights and voting rights legislation and the nation’s first black president—race remains the elephant in the room. Moreover, racism has worsened in the age of Obama–reflecting a white backlash–and politics have become far more racially polarized. Militia groups have mobilized in due to the economic recession and their hatred of the president, as the Tea Party and birther movements have painted Obama as a foreigner and therefore an illegitimate leader.
A recent AP survey found that 56 percent of white Americans harbor anti-black sentiments, up from 49 percent during the 2008 presidential election. Further, the poll found that racial prejudice alone could cost President Obama five points in the election, while pro-black sentiments could add three points, for a net loss of two points.
“We would be disappointed because Obama has done his best,” said Rev. Samuel Mosteller of an Obama defeat. Mosteller is assistant pastor of Atlanta’s Good Shepherd Community Church and president of the SCLC Georgia chapter. “People have forgotten where we were before Obama’s administration. He has made monumental decisions and changes that have benefited the American people.”
“If he loses, it’s because a great number of people don’t like the fact he’s African and American,” Rev. Mosteller concluded.
Another possible reason for an Obama loss is voter disenfranchisement, say some observers. Civil rights organizations are concerned that Republican-controlled state governments around the country have enacted voter ID requirements that they argue place a higher burden on voters of color, the poor and the elderly.
A prominent Romney donor was hired by Pennsylvania’s Republican governor to create ads for the state’s draconian voter ID law, which a court halted for the 2012 election.
The Tea Party group True the Vote is accused of intimidating minority voters at the polls.