1st Black President Wins a 2nd Term
Here's who gave it to President Obama, and what he might do with it.
Analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found that the percentage of voters ages 18-29 voting in this election increased by one percentage point over the 2008 election. Those voters supported President Obama over Mitt Romney 60 percent to 36 percent. One news story documented a 21-year-old woman so determined to cast her vote for the president that she voted while in labor.
What the Second Term Might Look Like
Despite the historical significance of electing the nation's first black president four years ago, this election was considered more significant in the eyes of some civil rights proponents. It is widely believed that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is nearing retirement, and she may not be the only member of the nation's highest court soon to depart. This means that the winner of this year's presidential election will have the power to shape the Supreme Court, and subsequently the law, in a manner that will far outlast his presidential term.
Since the most important civil rights victories for African Americans have largely been won in the courts, among them the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision ending legalized segregation in public schools, the particular importance of Supreme Court nominations to the black community cannot be underestimated. Just before the election, a high-profile civil rights case came before the court, the affirmative action case Fisher v. University Texas.
In addition to the cases the Supreme Court could hear that directly affect African Americans, there is speculation that the next Supreme Court nominee from the Obama administration may be African American. There have been two black justices on the court so far: Thurgood Marshall (famous for litigating Brown v. Board of Education before joining the court) and Clarence Thomas (a well-known conservative who opposes affirmative action). Few believe that the first black president wishes to be remembered for having the opportunity to appoint an African American to the nation's highest court and declining to do so.
As he embarks on his second term, the president will likely enjoy a brief period of celebration before his most devout supporters -- those who gave him a second term -- become his most determined critics. While other minority groups, such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and Latinos, could point to a number of high-profile wins under the Obama administration -- including the end of "Don't ask, don't tell" for gay and lesbian service members and a policy directive to prevent the deportation of young undocumented immigrants -- the needs of black Americans were rarely publicly discussed with the same fervor.
In a previous interview with The Root, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), the chairman of the Black Congressional Caucus, said that, with 14 percent black unemployment (pdf), if we had a white president, African Americans would be "marching around the White House." Cleaver explained that he believed President Obama and his advisers feared tackling so-called black issues in his first term because he was a constant lightning rod for racially charged criticism. "I think this administration feels far more comfortable in dealing with LGBT or Latino issues because they will never be accused of embracing those issues more than others of the American public," said Cleaver. "But the moment the president says 'black,' they will begin to call him H. Rapp Brown and Eldridge Cleaver and [say], 'He's a member of the Black Panther Party.' "
To Cleaver's point, prominent conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck called the president a racist who holds anti-white feelings during an appearance on one of America's most watched morning shows. This despite the fact that the president is half white and was raised by white Americans.