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Do we have a friend in the White House?

By Walter Smith

The world applauded when Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States in November of 2008. People of color the world over were ecstatic over having someone they could relate to as the leader of the richest and most powerful country in the world.

Heads of States of foreign countries who were at odds with the U.S. felt relieved when Obama suggested that they stop fighting and start talking. He inspired hope in the repressed, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised and the poor.

The word was, “I never thought I would live to see the day a Black man would be elected president of the United States.”

Obama’s initial campaign prompted every African American newspaper in the country to promote his candidacy pro bono through the pages of their publications. The cause for rejoicing was things would be different for people of color. A person of color was in charge of the Justice Department of the United States. Young people of color the world over were inspired to look to higher heights. They knew that if they only applied themselves that anything was possible. All glass ceilings were broken and there was no limit to personal growth. Publishers of the Black Press were encouraged primarily because for years they had tried to get advertising from the federal government with no success.

Presidential campaigns meant millions of dollars of income for newspapers and other media outlets. The Black Press usually got less than one hundredth of 1 percent of this windfall. It was tokenism at best but that is what they became accustomed to in presidential races. They got peanuts from the Democrats and nothing from the Republicans.

In 2008, the presidential elections cost a record-setting $2.8 billion. To win that election, Obama spent $740.6 million. He spent approximately $1 million with the Black Press. The expense for the current presidential race will exceed $5 billion with nearly $3 billion being spent between Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association is composed of a group of middle class entrepreneurs. That same group, founded in 1827 by John Russwurm, initiated the growth and recognition of the talents and contributions of African Americans to the United States. In spite of the lack of advertising revenue, the Black Press has been there for all who needed to be positively profiled, protected and promoted for whatever position in life they were aspiring to.

Had there been no Black Press of America, there would be no Barack Obama in the Whitehouse. Obama won the popular vote in 2008 by 4 percentages points — 52 percent for the Democrats and 48 percent for the Republicans. The electoral vote was a different story. However, if that popular vote can be reversed — coupled with implementation of the voter ID requirements, which will eliminate over 20 million voters from the polls, with a majority of them African American — Obama can lose. The Republicans are working hard to reduce Obama’s voting base. Voter ID laws have been introduced in all except nine states.

In the first four months of 2012, election supervisors in Florida removed nearly 7,000 voters from the rolls. Democrat: 3,550 (51.20 percent) Republican: 1,206 (17.39 percent).

Television ads are not going to address these issues to Obama’s base, only the Black Press and the Black church will. If our president is serious about winning this election, he should consider the proposal presented to the OFA campaign by NNPA Chairman Clovis Campbell.

Obama’s current advisers on the Black vote and the Black Press are no different today than they were in 1976 with Jimmy Carter, or in 1980 or 1984 or 1992 or 1996 or 2008. Tokenism is all they knew then and tokenism is all the current advisers know now. The Black Press needs to be recognized for the work they have done and invited to participate in the economic windfall associated with presidential elections especially when a Black candidate is running.

Walter Smith is the publisher of New York Beacon.

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