by Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Michael Blake, an African-American political adviser for the Obama campaign, is making good on a strategic plan for President Barack Obama to visit black neighborhoods and meet with blacks during this year’s presidential race.
Blake, the campaign’s deputy director for Operation Vote and a trusted counselor, told me that Obama would definitely visit black communities during the 2012 presidential campaign – and soon. Blake didn’t lie.
Obama traveled to Cleveland, Ohio this week and stopped by the home of William and Endia Eason, an African-American couple who have been married for 42 years but ended up $80,000 in debt as a result of an unscrupulous mortgage broker.
Obama is starting 2012 on the right track. During his first presidential trip this year, Obama not only toured the critical swing state of Ohio, but he also took his message of economic recovery and fiscal responsibility directly to a black family.
This year, as in 2008, the Obama re-election efforts are inexplicably tied to black voter turnout in states like Ohio, where rallying African-American voters is critical because a successful black voter outreach could determine whether Obama is re-elected to the White House. Obama has been criticized by some black Democrats for appearing aloof and not consistently engaging African-Americans. Only Obama can change this perception.
For the president, meeting with the Easons could go a long way toward firing up the black base in Ohio. The Obama campaign doesn’t just want black voters to trickle into voting booths in November; they would like to duplicate the euphoria and unprecedented black turnout from the 2008 campaign. To accomplish this tall order, black folks will need to see Obama in their communities; talk to him, to look him in the eye and shake his hand.
“I just want to thank the Easons … for welcoming us,” Obama said Wednesday.
“As some of you may be aware, just in terms of background, the Easons, who have been married for 42 years now — Mr. Eason is a former Marine and so served our country in the Korean War — were living in their home, were taken advantage by a mortgage broker, and, as a consequence, ended up being $80,000 in debt. The repairs that had originally been promised to be made for a few thousand dollars were never completed, and they almost lost their home.”
“Thanks to some timely intervention, they were able to stay in their home and prevent foreclosure,” Obama said. “But it’s a good example of the kinds of trickery and abuse in the non-bank financial sector that we’re going to have to do something about.”
And timing is everything. Obama also told the Easons about appointing former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog agency created to protect families like the Easons from the abuses of the financial industry. “His job will be to make sure you’ve got all the information you need to make important financial decisions,” Obama said.
Obama’s meeting with the Easons is the kind of grassroots campaigning the president needs to galvanize the black faithful and earn the goodwill in the black community by talking to African-Americans directly about government policies that can improve their quality of life.
“We have a civic responsibility to let people know about these programs,” Blake said in an interview.
Blake, a graduate of Northwestern University, is leading the Obama campaign’s ground game for turnout among minority voters, and he also serves as the point man for African-American outreach – a key component of the Operation Vote initiative.
Meanwhile, William Eason relaxed in his wheelchair Wednesday and listened to America’s first black president share his thoughts about the economy and the perils of mortgage lending.
“It’s an honor you being here,” Eason proudly told Obama.
“Well,” the president responded, “we appreciate your service all the way around.”
Blake is savvy enough to know that there is no substitute for old-school, Chicago-style, door-to-door campaigning in black neighborhoods across the country. It’s a sophisticated, yet simple strategic plan that has stood the test of time.
Ten months before the presidential election, let’s hope Obama’s down-home strategy of making personal connections with black voters continues early and often.