Twenty percent of black voters in North Carolina would vote for Mitt Romney if the elections were today, according to a poll released Wednesday morning. Compare that to the 5 percent of black voters who voted for John McCain and what you have is a serious problem for President Barack Obama.
Ever since Obama came out for gay marriage in early May, he has seen support rapidly drop among his most ardent advocates. Black parishes and communities across North Carolina have spoken out against Obama’s new creed because they find it incompatible with their Christian beliefs.
President Obama has betrayed the Bible and the black church with his endorsement of same-sex marriage,” said Rev. Dwight McKissic of Arlington, Texas.
Other preachers have admitted to feeling conflicted between their support for President Obama and his unacceptable policies.
“I support my president and love my president, but I think he is wrong,” said Keith Ogden, a pastor of a black community in Asheville, North Carolina.
Black voters tend to poll heavily against the legalization of gay marriage, a fact that was thrown into the political spotlight when black voters voted 2-1 for the North Carolina marriage amendment, which constitutionally defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
Given these statistics, Obama took a serious risk of abandoning his base when he decided to advocate for gay marriage. What remains to be seen is whether or not overall dissatisfaction with Obama’s policies will actually manifest itself in a clear vote against him in November. It is one thing to express frustration with the Obama administration, but it is quite another to agree to put Mitt Romney in office instead.
And it is clear that the majority of black voters are very conflicted on the issue. The Washington Post released an article last week that said that black voters would not refuse to support Obama just because of his approval of gay marriage. It quoted black pastors as taking an, “agree to disagree” stance on the issue.
Black liberal activist Van Jones also alluded to a growing disapproval of the Obama administration at last week’s Netroots liberal activism conference in Rhode Island.
“We have a quandary,” he said on Saturday. “We know we’re supposed to be fired up, and we know we’re supposed to be ready to go. But we’re pissed off! We’re mad. And we have reason to be. … Somebody said, ‘I feel like I’m caught between Barack and a hard place.’”
But while a 20 percent drop in black support for Obama (95 percent to 75 percent) may not be significant enough to turn an election, it should be significant enough to grab Obama’s attention. Because what it means is that Obama cannot be sure that he can ride to victory based on sheer star power alone, he is going to need strong policies that please his base to carry him through.
It also means that Obama cannot afford to underestimate the black population, because they are all too capable of calling his bluff and speaking out against his decisions when they find them to be wrong. In the words of Rev. Ogden, “He is not God, and he doesn’t speak for all black folk because he is African American.”
And when it comes down to the voting booth in November, values and principles may turn out to be more important than skin color.