By Joel Dreyfuss
As the clock ticks down to the crucial midterm elections, the Obama administration and the Democratic Party are paying attention to a group of voters who often feel neglected. Black voters are getting love from the president and party they haven't seen since 2008. Blacks have remained the president's most loyal supporters, registering approval ratings of 90 percent or more, while most Democrats have gone lukewarm and independent voters have started to lean to the right.
The DNC announced today that it was raising its spending in black media by 50 percent to $3 million, money that will go to radio, TV, print and new media, according to the DNC's Derrick Plummer. A national radio ad, featuring the Rev. Joseph Lowery, former president of the SCLC and a confidant of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., started running on stations today.
The DNC is also reviving one of its most successful programs from 2008, the outreach to beauty parlors and barber shops, where the conversation, among other things, often turns to politics. DNC Chairman Tim Kaine has also reached out to black voters, with appearances on the programs of Tom Joyner and Al Sharpton. He also gave an interview to The Root.
The president, who has often been accused of being standoffish on black issues, has suddenly become far more available to black media. The president spoke last week on Michael Baisden's show, the most widely syndicated black radio program. This morning he was expected to address a new-media summit attended by a number of black media outlets, including The Root.
Later this week, the president will meet with the Trotter Group, an organization of black columnists that has been seeking an interview with him since 2008. He can expect tough questions from a group that includes The Root contributor Les Payne.
Plummer doesn't accept the perception that African Americans have been taken for granted by the president or the party. "We understand and recognize how important African-American voters are to the Democratic Party," he says. Naturally, the hope is that all this renewed attention will motivate black voters to go to the polls in large numbers to support Democrats in November. All we have to say to the prez and the DNC is,"Don't be strangers."
Joel Dreyfuss is the managing editor of The Root.