The widening racial divide of the Obama era
Contrary to the expectations of most pundits, the election of Barack Obama has aggravated the racial divide in America between blacks and all other racial groups. Seth Forman has an insightful column in National Review that concludes Barack Obama has hardened black political segregation. Far from bringing black and white together, as he promised to do in his famous 2004 Democratic National Convention speech and that was implicit throughout his 2008 campaign, his policies since assuming the Presidency have led to racial polarization.
It's not just the punditry that overpredicted the soothing qualities of Obama's presidential salve. Average citizens have also been chastened. A Rasmussen poll in October of 2010 found that just 36 percent of voters said relations between blacks and whites were getting better, down from 62 percent in July of 2009.
Forman points out that Obama's political palaver about bringing people together when he was on the national stage was belied by his own statements and actions when the klieg lights were not shining on him. After all, this is the man who was an active member of a church led by the race-baiting Jeremiah Wright, and who held out Wright's statement that "white people's greed runs a world in need" as transformative to himself.
But it has been Obama's statist policies -- his mania for social and economic engineering -- that have stoked the racial divisions. His policies -- be it the affirmative action policies that are laced throughout the laws passed under him (including ObamaCare), the policies of departments such as the Department of Justice, rules and regulations that have proliferated under his Presidency, his massive shifting of savings among groups -- have hardened the divides. There has been a great deal of favoritism exhibited by this administration, some visible but a lot invisible, or that certainly fly under the radar screen and remain unvisited by mainstream media outlets (see, for example, Racial Spoils in Obama's America). Obama has tipped his hand that his policies would work to benefit African-Americans.
These policies are looked on favorably by their beneficiaries and with considerable less enthusiasm from those who pay for them.
Many whites may now be experiencing their own version of black middle-class "rage." Obama has, in a sense, nationalized the black social compact. In his first year in office he rammed two massive bills through Congress in a concerted effort to reorganize American life around the objectives of redistributing wealth, expanding the welfare state, and increasing government employment. One bill, the "economic stimulus" act (formally the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), added $862 billion to the federal budget, increased federal spending by 34 percent in a single year, pushed the public sector to almost 43 percent of the entire economy (up from 36.4 percent in 2008), and "saved" the jobs of roughly 900,000 state and local government employees at a time when the private sector lost 5.7 million jobs.
Half of the stimulus grants to states went for Medicaid and other transfer programs. The result, USA Today reported in 2010, is that Americans depend more on government assistance now than at any other time in the nation's history: a record 18.3 percent of the nation's total personal income came in the form of payments from the government for Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits, and other programs. By August of 2010 government anti-poverty programs served a record one in six Americans. This growth in the number of dependent people, it is important to note, has taken place before the second of Obama's two main legislative accomplishments - health-care reform - adds an estimated 16 million more to the Medicaid rolls, beginning in 2014.
Not surprisingly, given the factors outlined above, blacks are far more comfortable with Obama's revised social compact than whites. Another Pew poll, in May of 2010, found that blacks were nearly twice as likely as whites to call U.S. economic conditions "excellent" or "good" (25 percent to 13 percent). They were also significantly less likely than whites to say that the American economy was still in recession (45 percent to 57 percent). Ellis Cose has even reemerged, 17 years after decrying the "rage of a privileged class," to declare "the end of anger." "In many ways," Cose writes, "African-Americans today have more faith in this country than their white counterparts."
The last sentence is an echo of Michelle Obama's own statement regarding that the first time she felt pride in being an American was when Barack Obama was nominated to be the Democratic contender for the Presidency. Blacks continue to support Barack Obama by overwhelming numbers because it is in their own economic interests to do so. Conversely, perhaps there may be valid reasons why Obama is losing support among whites.
Nothing surprising about that dynamic. People vote on pocketbook issues all the time. But Forman will undoubtedly be decried as being a racist for simply stating that fact and putting it in its proper context.