Less than two years after Barack Obama won the presidency with the largest mandate since Ronald Reagan, some fellow Democrats are keeping their distance from him on the theory that they’ll have a better chance to win by appealing to the votes of conservative whites.
This is short-sighted.
First of all, Obama inherited a deep economic recession, two wars and a burgeoning national debt. His stimulus package, by most accounts, averted another Great Depression.
Democrats should make that case, and stress, as Obama himself has been lately, that the Democratic Party is on the side of working people.
Democratic candidates should also embrace Obama because that will galvanize the base of the party and get out core constituencies, such as blacks and Latinos, as well as young people, who respect Obama as a historic symbol.
Without them, Democrats are in for a rough time at the polls on Nov. 2.
But this logic seems to be escaping many of the candidates this year.
Gubernatorial candidates former Houston Mayor Bill White, former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, who is trying to return to office, and Chief Financial Officer of Florida Alex Sink all made sure that they were elsewhere when Obama visited their states on fundraising stops. Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general of Connecticut who is running for the U.S. Senate, started the trend in February.
This dance of avoidance has made for awkward moments during the campaign season.
For instance, after Air Force One landed in Austin last month, Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry was waiting on the tarmac to shake hands with Obama. But White was nowhere to be seen.
These Democrats are acting like Republicans in their efforts to win white voters. And by so doing, these candidates risk reinforcing the irrational hostility that many white voters show Obama. In the process of distancing themselves from Obama, they also snub a black man and help make the first black president an object of derision.
An amazing number of Americans refuse to give Obama the respect that a president deserves. They falsely claim he’s a socialist. They falsely claim he’s a Muslim. They falsely claim he isn’t a U.S. citizen. Fourteen percent even think he may be the actual Antichrist.
This is craziness.
Obama’s fellow Democrats owe him the courtesy to show up in public with him. It may actually help their campaigns. And it would do a lot of good for this country.
There has got to be a better way to win elections than to play to the lowest common denominator.
Starita Smith is a doctoral student and instructor in sociology at the University of North Texas in Denton. She is also an award-winning journalist formerly with the Austin American-Statesman and The Dispatch in Columbus, Ohio. She can be reached at email@example.com.
You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.