There is something off-putting about President Obama’s having announced in a video that his reelection campaign was launching a movement called “African-Americans for Obama.” The unease is not over an appeal to a particular ethnic group, which is a hallmark of American political campaigns.
What is disconcerting is that in this case it was not a group of supporters who announced the effort but rather the president himself. And the pitch is not limited to the claim that as president Mr. Obama has done much for a community that has special needs. In context, the unmistakable message is “Vote for me because I look like you.”
Thus, while speaking on the video about what he said were his accomplishments for all Americans, he talked about the great sacrifices many had made to be able “to cast a ballot” and then went on to note that “Their efforts made it possible for somebody like me to be here today.” He went on to urge African-Americans to “keep making history.” And there were several cuts to images of African-American life and culture.
Though it was all carefully nuanced, it is difficult to recall the last time a political message by a sitting president was so palpably racial. And this from the man who told us he aspired to be the “post-racial president.”