Michael Fauntroy: Will Barack Obama Become the Next David Dinkins?

5 Aug

michael fauntroy, barack obama, black politics
Consider this the sounding of the alarm.

A narrative is beginning to develop regarding the 2012 presidential election that, while true, interesting, and worthy of discussion, seems to miss the more important point.  It goes something like this: With astronomically high unemployment rates and a general lack of attention, a limited amount of grumbling has begun to develop in some segments of the African American community regarding President Barack Obama and his policies. The grumbling, as the narrative goes, will not impact African American support for President Obama’s reelection because Blacks want to protect the President. But something is missing in this narrative and is a more important point that Mr. Obama’s campaign would do well to include in its electoral calculus. President Obama could retain the same proportion of the African American vote, but of a smaller Black electoral pie. If that happens then President Obama could become David Dinkins – a groundbreaking electoral winner who loses reelection, at least in part, because Black apathy keeps a significant portion of his base at home.

David Dinkins had a long and distinguished political career when, in 1989, he beat incumbent mayor Ed Koch in the Democratic primary and Republican-nominee Rudolph Giuliani in the general election to become the first African American mayor of New York. There was a huge historical outpouring of support to get Dinkins elected mayor and his victory made international headlines. Even with record African American turnout, it was still a tight race in the overwhelmingly Democratic city. As Jonathan P. Hicks noted in a 1993 New York Times article, a shift of 22,000 voters in the total of 1.8 million voters would have swung the election toward Giuliani.  Dinkins lost a rematch with Giuliani four years later, in part because Black turnout receded.

It is understandable why some Black voters are concerned.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the June 2011 Black unemployment rate stood at 16.2 percent (for context, the June 2001 Black unemployment rate was 8.3 percent). This number does not reveal the true picture as it excludes people who work part time because they can’t find full time work or people who have given up and are no longer looking for work, so the effective unemployment/underemployment rate is likely higher. Add to this a plunging of Black wealth in the economic crisis and Republican efforts to suppress the Black vote and it won’t be any wonder if some voters conclude that there is no point in showing up on election day. To the extent that the President has anything to say about African Americans, its about the need for Black fathers to “step up” and show “personal responsibility.” While that is an important message, it is one that anyone can give. The President needs to use his bully pulpit to bear witness to Black suffering and publicly show that he cares. When a President speaks on an issue, it immediately becomes important. Conversely, an issue can be seen as inconsequential if he publicly ignores it. Ignoring the unique issues in Black America could leave some, and it does not have to be a lot, to ignore him on election day.

Dinkins’ reelection campaign was hurt by, among other factors, a feeling that developed in some Black neighborhoods that he was more focused on other parts of his electorate. As one African American political consultant put it in 1993, “When Black people see the Mayor traveling to Israel during the Gulf War, but not visiting their community in New York City, it fuels the perception that he cares more about other communities in the city.” Substitute Mayor with President, Israel with Wall Street, and New York City with America, and the similarities between Dinkins in 1993 and Obama in 2011 could become more than coincidental.

The President could lose his reelection bid if enough Black voters stay home because they either do not believe the Republican nominee can win or they just do not feel the same urgency to show up on election day. Not voting for your candidate is the same as voting for his or her opponent, so it could be African American voters who keep the President from a second term. In 2008, Mr. Obama won Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida by small margins on the strength of Black votes.  If enough Black voters in those states stay home, then the Republican nominee will take the oath of office in January of 2013. While there are other segments of Mr. Obama’s base that are lukewarm at the moment, there is no way he can win with a smaller universe of Black voters.

David Dinkins’ name is not on the tips of very many tongues these days, particularly among people who do not live in New York. Obama campaign officials would be fools if they did not learn a thing or two about him and how he lost his reelection bid nearly 20 years ago.

Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of public policy at George Mason University. He blogs at MichaelFauntroy.com.

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10 Responses to “Michael Fauntroy: Will Barack Obama Become the Next David Dinkins?”

  1. Anonymous August 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    Obama’s fate seems to eerily parallel the end of Mr. Dinkin’s mayoral bid. I was too young to witness Mr. Dinkin’s time in office, but after research I have to agree with this article! Keep it up, Mr. Fauntroy.

  2. Anonymous August 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    I remember former New York Mayor David Dinkins time in office and his bid for re-election. Mr. Fauntroy is correct in his analysis and comparison between Mr. Dinikins and President Obama. Like Mr. Fauntroy, I also hope that President Obama’s campaign officials have done their homework and are ready tio implement swift action … the black community needs to hear directly from the president.

  3. WizardG August 6, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    Obama is nothing more than a black overseer for his Anglo-Elite handlers. They tell him what to do and what to say. He can not venture far from their boundaries and guess what? He is perfect for that position because he really couldn’t care less what happens to Africans across the diaspora. He and his gang of fakers are raking in great wealth and will live happily off the taxpayer and the extra benefits of his white owners.

    African-Americans “blacks” are quite naive to bother with Obama at all. If you look at the history of the treatment of ‘blacks’ when a black person is in a high ‘white’ leadership position you will find that we suffer worse than ever! At least with a white person in power we can complain of racism and discrimination, but with them having placed a black man into their esteemed “white” house, we can’t even get a word in edgewise and low and behold our youth are still being denied jobs, education, and are being warehoused in prisons or the military, if not shot in the streets by racist white cops and their ‘black’ cohorts.(It was quite a brilliant scheme to post Obama up for us to vote for while knowing the outcome was not to serve the people but to boost the Anglo-Elite agenda).

    This is the bottom line. The Anglo-Elite secret society sorts have the wealth, the power, and are nearly omnipotent in the face of mass ignorance. They have so much power that they can set up whole countries to fall! They can go into countries using our children as soldiers and murder the leaders of those countries. Or imprison them like they have Manuel Noriega of Panama. What makes anyone with any sense think that they didn’t choose Obama, and made sure he got where they wanted him to be?

    The problem with the American populace is that they are not very logical thinkers and some don’t bother to think about politics at all. Some are so dense that they can be convinced of almost anything and some just want to close their eyes and block out anything that hurts their comfort zones.

    Obama belongs to the Anglo-Elite! They determine his moves and they hold the true power just as their ancestors did when our ancestors were slaves. We are all (in this country) nothing but fodder to them. Obama will be that much richer when they finish using him and his people. Meanwhile we will be worse off than we have been in decades! Even if we didn’t vote for Obama. The Elite can make it look like we did and they can manipulate the polls. Don’t be fooled again and again. That’s insane!

    If you think Obama is your friend, then you must have called GW Bush your friend because their agendas are similar and why is that? Well it’s because both of them are nothing more than puppets to serve the Anglo-Elite’s agenda.

    • Blkpanther August 6, 2011 at 10:30 am #

      I could not have said it any better myself…I have been preaching to the choir on all these so called “black” talk shows, if the let me finish; most times they will cut you off and left the Obama fan club on to spew their ignorance about him being “divinely chosen”…What a crock of BS…I have seen this backward slide faster that we did during our segregation…Even when we did not socialized with these devils, we still managed to be self-preserving, now black folks have given up their self preservation, and have devolved into all manner of degeneracy which will result in our genocide…I know that I will not be voting for Obama or any republican in 2012, if there is nothing on the ticket that fits my criteria, then I will sit out this election and not waste a vote…

    • Pay_Attention August 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

      You put up good arguments, as usual. However, because Michelle Obama is the president’s wife, and she’s a sister from Chicago who worked hard for everything she has, I doubt she would allow our President not to care. You underestimate them both. I believe that when black folks become a stronger voice, as the Tea Party has become, that’s when the President and many other politicians will take a more vocal stand on our issues. We have to start the fight.

      And this article was brilliant in its ability to warn of what could happen, based on what has happened in the past. Hopefully someone in the White House has been given this info, and knows what to do with it.

  4. mike harris (@goodgiant) August 7, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    This brother’s message added more insight on how this system, controlled by a “drunken sailor culture,” works… In other words, David Dinkins was merely a black face representing white policies and B.O. has manifested himself accordingly. So after all of the dots are connected and the overall timeline of events (disproportionate incarceration of our brothers, cops killing our brothers in a mercenary way as opposed to self-defense) are assessed it should be perfectly clear to all of us that our only way out of it, is to collectively speak truth to power by fully embracing our “God Given Right” or “Creator Rights” by making the right decision on what we’re going to do to make our lives better and most importantly, what we have to do to make our children’s lives better. We have a distinctly different legacy than any other group in this part of the diaspora therefore our future can only be determined by what we feel is right for us.

  5. ellen v stafford August 7, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    HOW iGNORANT WE HAVE BECOME. WE,AS BLACK PEOPLE NEED A CLASS IN
    CRITICAL THINKING..BLACK FOLKS SLEEPING WHILE WHITE FOLKS MEETING.
    iNDIANS STATED YEARS AGO ,WHITE MAN TALK WITH FORK TONGUE.NOW WHITE AND BLACK FOLKS TALK WITH PITCH FORK TONGUE. BEFORE OBAMA WAS ELECTED THEY TRIED EVERYTHING POSSISBLE AGAINST HIM. AFTER HE WAS ELECTED THEY WERE IN SHOCK THAT A BLACK MAN WAS PRESIDENT..THEN THEY CAME OUT FOR THE KILL.TEA PARTY,REPUBLICANS AND
    SOME BEMOCRATS REMIND ME OF BULL CONNORS WITH THE DOGS,KKK WITHOUT THE HOODS,AND SLAVE MASTERS..FOR THOSE WHO DON’T RMRMBER READ YOUR HISTORY

  6. mALCOLM August 9, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    IF PRESIDENT OBAMA LOSES THE SECOND TERM BECAUSE ON LOW OR NON BLACK TURNOUT AND THE REPUBLICANS GAIN THE SEAT, DON’T COMPLAIN WHEN THEY SHACKLE YOU TO A POLE OR GATHER A LYNCH MOB, YOU DESERVE WHAT YOU DIDN’T VOTE FOR. HE’S ONLY ONE MAN, THE REPUBLICANS TOLD YOU IT WAS THEIR MAJOR CONCERN TO MAKE HIM A ONE TERM PRESIDENT AND THEY’RE PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS. THEY EVEN HAVE KNEEGROWS WORKING ON THEIR SIDE SO IT’S UP TO YOU BECAUSE IF HE WINS A SECOND TERM, HE’S NOTHING TO LOSE, HE CAN DO WHAT HE WANTS FOR ALL AND TELL THE NABISCO’S TO KHA!!

  7. Rose August 10, 2011 at 1:19 am #

    Why did anyone think President Obama could do more than they allow him to do??? President Bush, Jr was part of the Elite and they all worked together to secure that the wealthy keep their money. They work against President Obama to assure that the wealthy keep their money. Well when it all “falls down” their money will not save them.

  8. The Negro August 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    The article makes an interesting but ominous point. It reminds me of a thought: Other races do not have to do much to defeat us, Black people. There is a sufficient number of us, amongst us, capable of dealing that fatal self-inflicted wound, thereby bringing about what others hope for i.e. the continued subjugation and/or demise of the Black people. It is my hope that Michael’s point remains just that, a thought expressed, but does not become a reality.

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