by Yvette Carnell
The preacher who was handpicked to become President Obama’s ambassador to the African-American community is now grasping at straws in a last ditch effort to defend the first black president.
During an interview with New York magazine on whether President Obama had done enough for the African-American community, Sharpton mentioned Obamacare, then quickly pivoted to the harm inflicted upon the black community by Bill Clinton:
Al Sharpton, one of Obama’s staunchest defenders and a sometime adviser, argues that there is much to be grateful for in this presidency. “You know how many black people tell me, ‘I didn’t have health insurance until now’?” The Affordable Care Act is projected to give an estimated 2.9 million more African-Americans coverage by 2016, significantly narrowing the coverage gap between blacks and whites. “It’s extremely strange to hear people question President Obama who never questioned Bill Clinton,” he continues. “Under Bill Clinton, we got the crime bill that gave us three strikes and you’re out, and the welfare-reform bill. I too would have liked to see the Obama years do more. I agree with that. But Barack Obama never gave us a bill that hurt us.”
Actually, we saw a flurry of critical articles on Bill Clinton’s role in mass incarceration after the former president’s recent apology. But casting a critical gaze at Obama’s predecessor is certainly not a glowing appraisal of this president’s tenure. Saying the white guy is much worse than my guy isn’t the stuff pristine presidential legacies are made of.
I would also object to the notion that Obama has not harmed the black community. There’s a lot to be corrected here. It was under Obama that the heads of HBCUs threatened to sue the White House after its student loan policies forced an estimated 28,000 students to drop out and cost schools $150 million dollars in revenue. It was under this president that the Education Department’s “Race to the Top” policy caused a massive number of public school closures, especially in Obama’s hometown of Chicago. Recently, Obama defied his own fellow Democrats to ensure passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which arguably grants corporations more power than they’ve had at any other time in modern history.
As African-Americans are increasingly gunned down by police, Obama signed a bill to help protect police from threats. In the new BLS job numbers, the drop in the labor participation rate was sharpest among African-Americans. It’s not necessary that Obama sign a bill to hurt African-Americans for the president to do damage. Inaction and unilateral action are adequate bludgeoning tools.
Even the one success Sharpton imagines as being squarely in Obama’s win column isn’t as snug as he believes. In 2014 Bloomberg observed that Obamacare was helping everyone except black people:
When the Commonwealth Fund conducted a survey from July to September last year, 21 percent of blacks reported being uninsured. This year, in a similar survey conducted from April to June, that level was effectively unchanged, at 20 percent.
The truth about the Obama presidency is captured perfectly in one quote from the aforementioned article.
“That’s one of the fundamental paradoxes of Obama’s presidency — that we have the Black Lives Matter movement under a black president,” says Fredrick Harris, a political scientist at Columbia University. “Your man is in office, and you have this whole movement around criminal-justice reform asserting black people’s humanity?”
After researching the data, no one can, with a straight face, make the case that Obama has been good for the black community. You can, however, make the case that the white guy before him was worse. That’s the case Sharpton is making. It’s the only card he has left to play.
My video commentary below: