Project 21 New Visions

Horace Cooper

The Obama Administration's Cynical Chase for the "Subtle" Racist


by Horace Cooper (bio)

 

Ironically, for a presidency allegedly ushering in a post-racial America, the actions of the White House indicate the Obama Administration considers political manipulation of race to be a practice that's too big to fail.

During his recent commencement address at the historically-black Morgan State University, Attorney General Eric Holder said about comments by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and embattled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy: "These outbursts of bigotry, while deplorable, are not the true markers of the struggle that still must be waged, or the work that still needs to be done."  

Holder implied Klansmen still lurk in the shadows when he added: "The greatest threats are more subtle.  They cut deeper."

Exactly what struggle was Holder referring to? This presidency has certainly served up its own heaping portion of pain for at-risk Americans. Tragically, it has harmed many of the very groups it claims to protect.

Under this administration, which is the most progressive in American history, blacks have lost ground.  In the last five years, blacks have faced higher unemployment, a greater loss in household net worth and sizable increases of other indices measuring poverty in the black community.

But let's be clear: this is not due to racism or because of discrimination.  It is due to the poor stewardship of the nation's economy by the very White House that claims to have minority interests at heart.

Black America, like the nation as a whole, has suffered greatly in the last five years precisely because of ambitious policies pursued by the Obama Administration that have not worked.  In fact, these policies have made things worse.

Obama can be credited with creating more Americans unable or unwilling to grab a rung on the ladder of opportunity. This is seen in historically low workforce participation rates, augmented disability rolls, stagnant home values and falling household incomes.

It is this signature failing that is likely the primary reason why fewer black Americans voted for the President's 2012 re-election.

Rather than confronting this reality — that blacks face fewer educational opportunities and fewer entry ramps onto the highway leading to the American Dream — the White House sends Eric Holder out to talk about the "subtle" and unseen racist boogeyman.

How long can the Obama Administration continue to get away with this political sleight of hand?  On the one hand, its policies smother hope and economic growth.  One example is its promotion of an increase in the federal minimum wage, despite the fact that minimum wage laws have harmed black workers for decades.  Another example is the Administration's alliances with unions that limit or roll back the school choice movement and thereby destroy for many (especially urban) youth the possibility of meaningful educational attainment.

On the other hand, Attorney General Holder pretends that prison sentencing and vote fraud counter-measures are part of a national plot to reduce black political clout.  With this cynical effort, Holder tries to manipulate the very group he gives the pretense of protecting.

President Franklin Roosevelt famously said, "the only thing we have to fear... is fear itself."  This White House has refashioned the saying. At the Obama White House, all that's offered is fear itself.

Racism and discrimination are no longer primary influences over the lives of blacks and other minorities, or anyone else.   The stale policies of expanded government and heavy-handed regulation — the primary policy achievements of this White House — are far more consequential.

Rather than doubling-down on its failed big-government policies and stifling regulation, it would have been much more efficacious if, at that commencement, Holder chose to speak on behalf of graduates of all races to acknowledge the Obama Administration's market-distorting policies.  It would have been more auspicious had he announced a change in course and that the White House would soon embark on a unifying policy of growth for all Americans.

Another liberal icon, John F. Kennedy, understood the importance of growth and opportunity.  He knew that a "rising tide lifts all ships" and, as a result, he supported tax cuts and limits on government regulation.  This approach would boost incomes, restore hope and make it possible for millions to pursue the American Dream.

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Horace Cooper, a former law professor and former congressional leadership staffer, is the co-chairman of the Project 21 black leadership network. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.

 


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