Expectations High for State of the Union
||Monday, January 25, 2010
||Michael H. Cottman
Expectations High for State of the Union
Date: Monday, January 25, 2010, 5:59 am
By: Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com
As President Barack Obama prepares to deliver the State of the Union address on Wednesday, some black congressional leaders are urging Obama to publicly acknowledge issues of concern to black Americans during his prime-time speech to the nation.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she favors a call from the civic activist organization DC Vote for Obama to announce his unbridled support for the D.C. Voting Rights Act in his second State of the Union speech.
In her letter to the president, Norton wrote, “Residents who have struggled for centuries for their voting rights are especially keen this year to achieve their rights. I write now to support initiatives undertaken by residents, led by DC Vote, and D.C. organizations, who have asked you to reaffirm your support for their voting rights at this critical moment for the bill.”
“Residents do not doubt that you stand with us for full democracy for the citizens who live in the nation’s capital,” Norton said in her letter. “However, the State of the Union address offers an important opportunity for you to let the nation know that you intend for the high ideals on which you ran to become reality."
Founded in 1998, DC Vote is an educational and advocacy organization dedicated to securing full voting representation in Congress and full democracy for the more than half a million residents of the District of Columbia. Americans living in our nation's capital pay full federal taxes, fight and die in wars and serve on juries, yet they are denied voting representation in the House and the Senate.
“I strongly support the request of our citizens that you mention the congressional vote for D.C. residents in your first State of the Union address,” Norton added.
The White House declined to comment.
Norton’s letter urging Obama to speak out on behalf of D.C’s black residents is a prickly issue in the nation’s capitol. While most African-Americans support Obama, some say the president has not been the vocal supporter of D.C. voting rights that he claimed he would be if elected to office. Privately, some black activists say they are disappointed with Obama for being far too conservative about publicly acknowledging black causes.
Some black activists view Norton’s letter as the first of many calls by black lawmakers to hold Obama’s feet closer to the fire in 2010 in the hopes that Obama will speak up for black Americans. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus criticized Obama last year saying he has not effectively addressed the nation’s soaring black unemployment rate – 15.4 percent.
“It’s a shot over his bow,” one longtime political observer on Capitol Hill said of Norton’s letter to Obama. “And there’s more to come.”
Obama’s second year in office presents a myriad of challenges, including a health care agenda that appears to be hobbled, a stagnant job market, and talk among some blacks that Obama, the nation’s first black president, has not done enough to help black Americans in crisis.
As the president marks one year in the White House, an average of the most recent national surveys indicates that just over half of the public approves of how Obama is handling his job. According to a new CNN Poll of Polls, 51 percent of Americans give Obama a thumbs-up when it comes to his performance as president, with 42 percent saying they disapprove of the job he's doing.
Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said flat-out that Obama has been a failure in his first year in office.
“One year ago, the American people welcomed President Obama into office and placed upon him an enormous amount of trust to bring about a new era of responsibility to Washington, but after a full year of failed stimulus plans, budget busting deficits, and his blatant attempts to continue his binge spending by raising America’s credit card limit, it is clear that the president has failed to bring any kind of responsibility to Washington,” Steele said in a statement.
“Instead of changing the political culture of Washington with his pledge for increased government transparency and political bipartisanship, President Obama and Congressional Democrats have fully embraced a method of operating that favors secret closed-door Capitol Hill meetings and complete one party monopoly rule,” Steele said.
Meanwhile, Norton will be watching - and listening carefully - to Obama’s speech to the nation on Wednesday.