CHARLOTTE , N.C. – President Barack Obama, four years after taking office on Mile High Mountain in Denver, was set to accept the nomination to lead America four more years this week. Despite the tough race ahead, he won’t be alone says Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) at the Democratic National Convention.
“This convention is primarily a pep rally and a launching pad – a pep rally for those of us who are believers and a launching pad for those of us who are believers to go out and recapture the people who, for a variety of reasons, may have lost some of the enthusiasm and to some degree we’ve got to go out and secure the enthusiastic support of African-Americans,” says Cleaver.
“We’ve got to have an energized Black vote. When I say energized, we’ve got to get African-Americans to the point where they’re willing to stand in line for two hours to vote. We’ve got to get African-Americans to the point where they come to the headquarters in cities all around this nation and volunteer and get signs and go out and create the atmosphere that a second term is inevitable. We’ve got to create an atmosphere of inevitability. We don’t have it yet so we’re working on it.”
Thousands were expected to pack in to the Charlotte Convention Center for three days of speeches, music and exhuberant activities aimed to excite voters and answer the attacks from last week’s Republican convention on Tampa. Among the highlighted speakers are First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday and President Bill Clinton, who will nominate President Obama on Wednesday. The President will address the crowd at the peak of the convention on Thursday evening.
With Republican Nominee Mitt Romney nipping at his heals after an energized GOP convention, it is clear that the Black vote will make the difference in the election that will determine whether America’s first Black President will continue in the White House. Complaints of high unemployment and disparate economic hardships among Blacks has caused enthusiasm to dissipate from the exuberance of four years ago.
But, Cleaver says all voters have to do is compare Obama’s Democratic ticket with what they could get in a Mitt Romney and the choice would be clear.
“People have to look at the reality of what we would have in a President Mitt Romney. And I think anybody who looked at the convention last week and saw people stand up and make bold-faced untruthful declarations about things should know now that a presidency of Mitt Romney would be packed with insults,” Cleaver said. “And if people are disappointed with what they think the President did not do because Mitt Romney will not in any way even consider programs that I think many African-Americans will want and need.”
As was expected, the Republican convention – with a lily White audience – was deplete of any mention of the disasterous economic conditions inherited by President Obama from the administration of President George Bush. His accomplishments of the first national health care program, his economic policies that led to the resurrection of General Motors and his elimination of Sept. 11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden were all but ignored or vehemently criticized.
Therefore, as President Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for re-election Thursday evening, he must make his record clear to his base, Cleaver says.
“And so the president needs to say that this second term will be infinitely more significant because incumbents are freer to implement their [ideas],” Cleaver said. “It’s going to be difficult for him to say I’m going to be more forceful for African-Americans. However, some programs that the president will push will indisputeably be put in place to help folk who are the urban poor.”
He continud, “This is President Obama’s opportunity to go to the American public and say, ‘Look, we didn’t get everything done that we wanted. But what we want you to do is give us a chance to finish the job. Give us a chance to get the job done. That’s what he’s got to say. The President is going to have to sell himself again and I think he can do that.”
Over the next two months, Cleaver says members of the CBC will take campaigns to the streets to excite Black people to go back to the polls in the high 90 percentile like four years ago. The activities will include huge concerts in key states such as Ohio, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. They will hold a voter participation concert in Cincinatti.
“And in that concert we will have some of the top musical talent in the country performing in Cincinatti. Everybody who is a registered voter will be admitted free. If you are not registered or if you moved and made a change of address or if you don’t have ID, we will have lines and tables right there to help people. Once you are registered, you can come into this event free. We are doing the same thing in Florida,” Cleaver says. “We will attract thousands of people who will come to these free events.”
In 22 other cities around the nation, they will have smaller rallies, he said.
The biggest mistake that could be made for Black America at this point would be for voters to stay home thinking someone else will carry the ball, Cleaver says.
“We must take nothing for granted. It is dangerous to be arrogant to assume that we’re going to automatically win,” he said. “People will realize that President Obama was not able to accomplish everything he wanted. He was stymied by Republicans, but I’m not ready to even entertain the thought of a Romney presidency.”