Civil rights icon still fighting for Black vote
By Hazel Trice Edney
Ninety-one-year-old Rev. Joseph Lowery may not have been able to campaign as much as he did four years ago at the age of 87. But, canvassing the state of Georgia for the Obama re-election, Lowery is doing all he can to turn out the Black vote.
“I think it’s an imperative that we turn out in large numbers … It’s imperative that we turn out in mammoth numbers to re-elect him because I think he deserves re-election,” says the civil rights icon who four years ago gave the benediction at the inauguration of the nation’s first Black president. But Lowery makes it quite clear that race pales in comparison to the real reason that he favors Obama over his Republican opponent Mitt Romney.
“He saved this country from a terrible actual catastrophe with his creativity, with his raw courage to do the stimulus thing,” Lowery said in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire. “And, in spite of the bloodletting, ‘Let them go bankrupt’ and ‘Let them die’ (suggestions) of Mitt Romney, Obama insisted on saving industry; particularly the automobile industry and others. And I think he deserves re-election. I think we need to do everything we can to turn out the vote and to encourage others to cast their vote for Obama.”
But it is clear that an invisible opposition — that has little to do with political issues — will shave some votes from Obama.
The Associated Press poll has concluded that “racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first Black president … Those views could cost President Barack Obama votes as he tries for re-election.”
As a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lowery is an old pro at recognizing racism.
“I’ve never seen such fierce determination on the part of some people in this country to prevent his re-election,” Lowery said. “He’s done very well in spite of the fact that he’s had very little cooperation from Congress.”
Just in from a rally in the 68 percent Black city of Macon, Ga., Rev. Lowery recognizes that the Black voter enthusiasm from four years ago has somewhat waned in the face of high unemployment and other community needs. But he is hoping that in the few final days before the election, voters will get their druthers.
“They have to understand that it’s not Obama’s fault. He inherited this critical state of affairs when he came to office,” he said in a voice raising to a convincing pitch. “That’s a difficult sell to say, ‘Things would have been worse if I hadn’t done so and so.’ But it’s the truth. And he saved us from a calamitous situation.”
Despite the determination of Lowery and other get-out-the-vote activists, polls show Romney leading comfortably in Georgia, a state not considered a must-win for the president. Republican Sen. John McCain also won Georgia in 2008. Democrats haven’t won Georgia since Bill Clinton did over President George H. W. Bush in 1992.
In final days of the campaign, Obama and Romney are focused largely on Ohio, Florida and Virginia in their quest for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. Recent polls show the following: Obama leading Romney 51 percent to 47 percent in Virginia (Washington Post poll); Obama leading Romney in Ohio 50 percent to 46 percent (CNN) and the candidates appear to be tied in Florida, according to a CNN/ORC poll.
Despite national polls showing the candidates within five points of each other, Lowery is among those who doubt the race is as close as predicted. He speculated that Black voters, expected to turn out for Obama more than 90 percent, have probably not received the phone calls from polling agencies.
“I don’t believe it’s as close as they say it is,” he said, “They haven’t been counting us for years. That’s nothing new. I prayed and I believe a lot of voters who have not made up their minds, when they get ready to go in that booth, they will recognize that we need this and that Romney is not good for this country, the kind of financials that he’s talking about, he’s not good for this country.”