Watch the 50th Anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech LIVE Wednesday 11:30 a.m. ET
When President Obama takes the stage at the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington, he will symbolize a big part of the complicated story of the nation’s racial progress in the half-century since the historic demonstration.
Can there be more convincing testimony to the breathtaking advancement of African Americans than a black president?
Yet there is also this: Even as racial barriers have been toppled and the nation has grown wealthier and better educated, the economic disparities separating blacks and whites remain as wide as they were when marchers assembled on the Mall in 1963.
Between 1959 and 1972, the black poverty rated dropped from 55.1 percent to 32.2 percent. But since then, progress has been slow. In 2011, 27.6 percent of black households were in poverty — nearly triple the white rate, according to the Census Bureau.
“The relative position of blacks has not changed economically since the march,” said William Darity Jr., a professor of public policy, economics and African American studies at Duke University. “Certainly, poverty has declined for everybody, but it has declined in a way that the proportion of blacks to whites who are poor is about the same as it was 50 years ago.”
That is hardly what famed labor leader A. Philip Randolph, the driving force behind the event, had in mind when he called for a mass march for “jobs and freedom.” For decades, Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly black labor union, had pushed for economic equality for black Americans.
[R]acial economic disparities are mostly unchanged and in some cases are growing. In 1963, blacks families earned 55 cents for every dollar earned by whites. In 2011, blacks earned 66 cents for every dollar earned by whites. The black unemployment rate averaged 11.6 percent between 1963 and 2012, more than double the white jobless rate over that time.
From CMP: Theft of Wealth from People of Color
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The Economic Immobility and Financial Insecurity of POC
According to a Pew Research Center study released [in 2011], the median wealth (assets minus debt) for white households is a little over $113,000, whereas the median wealth for black households is little more than $5600. According to a study released last year by Insight, Center for Community Economic Development, the median wealth for single black women is $100. Twenty-five percent of women of color have student debt, and nearly 50 percent of women of color have credit card debt in order to pay for basic necessities, thereby endangering financial security and economic mobility. According to Insight “[s]ingle black and hispanic women have one penny of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by their male counterparts and a fraction of a penny for every dollar of wealth owned by single white women.”
- Single black and Hispanic women have a median wealth of $100 and $120 respectively; the median for single white women is $41,500.
- While white women in the prime working years of ages 36-49 have a median wealth of $42,600, the median wealth for women of color is only $5.
- Nearly half of all single black and Hispanic women have zero or negative wealth, the latter of which occurs when debts exceed assets.
- While 57 percent of single white women own homes, only 33 percent of single black women and 28 percent of single Hispanic women are homeowners.
- Only 1 percent of single Hispanic women and 4 percent of single black women own business assets compared to 8 percent of single white women.
- Social Security is the only source of retirement income for more than 25 percent of black women.
- Prior to age 50, women of color have virtually no wealth at all.
Primary Resources: I Have a Dream, 1963
This is an audio recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving the “I Have a Dream” speech during the Civil Rights rally on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. The speech is regarded as one of the greatest American speeches ever made.
President Barack Obama’s 2012 election marks the culmination of a decades-long project to build an electorally viable and ideologically coherent progressive coalition in national politics.
With President Barack Obama’s decisive victory in the 2012 election, he becomes the first Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt—and the only president since Ronald Reagan—to win two consecutive elections with more than 50 percent of the popular vote. Although the election was closely contested, President Obama successfully solidified his historic progressive coalition from 2008 and held on to all of the states he won that year with the exception of conservative-leaning Indiana and North Carolina. And after the electoral disaster of that Democrats suffered in 2010 at the congressional level, the party expanded its majority in the Senate with significant wins in Massachusetts, Virginia, Missouri, Wisconsin, and even Indiana.
Why did this happen? A potent mix of demographics, a steadily improving economy, a clear rejection of the GOP’s extreme conservatism, and an embrace of pragmatic progressive policies on social and economic issues propelled the president and his party to victory. The president’s central message that “everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same rules” was more convincing to Americans dealing with rising inequality and diminished economic opportunities than the conservative alternative of supply-side tax cuts, deregulation, and limited government. His policy choices—from the stimulus bill and auto and financial sector bailouts to the health care law and support for expanded rights for women, Latinos, and gay and lesbian families—clearly paid off politically as the nation decided to give the president more time to lay a new foundation for our economy, society and government.
With his clear Electoral College and national popular vote majorities, President Obama has arguably created a genuine realignment at the national level that could continue to shape American politics for years to come. Obama’s strong progressive majority—built on a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, cross-class coalition in support of an activist government that promotes freedom, opportunity, and security for all—is real and growing and it reflects the face and beliefs of the United States in the early part of the 21st Century. The GOP must face the stark reality that its voter base is declining and its ideology is too rigid to represent the changing face of today’s country.
The remainder of this memo will provide a concise overview of the demographic breakdown of the election based on exit poll and election data available today. Updates will be made as more data are finalized.
The day before the election, President Barack Obama was preparing to speak in Ohio when state Republicans tweeted that they had knocked on 75,000 doors that day. Campaign aides told Obama they had knocked on 376,000 doors that day, according to a campaign staffer who recounted the story to reporters.
The president smiled widely. “That’s my team,” he said.
Through investing heavily in a ground game devised by field organizing veterans and honed over the last five years, the president’s campaign used voter-to-voter contact, a sprawling physical campaign, and personalized outreach to help the president compete against the financial advantage of the his opponent.
Recently Republican senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock suggested that a pregnancy resulting from rape was “something that God intended to happen.” Mourdock’s Christian fascist views permeate through a significant portion of the Republican Party, which has rampaged against reproductive rights with medieval zeal. The GOP’s anti-feminist backlash poses the gravest threat for women of color, who historically never had the benefit of being viewed as “proper” rape victims because innocence and “virtue” were an oxymoron when you were a slave, “squaw” or concubine.
In an era in which the wombs of African-American and Latino women are handily served up in every election cycle as welfare-queen-anchor-baby-spitting breeders, humanism has got to be culturally relevant, steeped in activism, and the everyday realities of communities of color.
Our call for news of Obama reelection-related layoffs brought in the following, from across the nation:
- Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert Murray read a prayer, and then “laid off 54 people at American Coal, one of his subsidiary companies, and 102 at Utah American Energy, blaming a ‘war on coal’ by the administration of President Barack Obama.’”
- A business owner in Williamson, Georgia told C-Span that he laid off three employees (“who voted for Obama”) and cut his remaining employees’ hours from 30 to 25 per week due to his fear of Obamacare.
- The owners of the West Cinema and the Pink Sugar boutique in Cedartown, Georgia say they are closing those businesses because they anticipate “higher taxes and more regulations during Obama’s second term of office.”
- The CEO of Papa John’s Pizza said that due to Obamacare, it’s “likely that some franchise owners would reduce employees’ hours in order to avoid having to cover them.”
[T]he GOP’s suppression strategy failed. Ten major restrictive voting laws were blocked in court and turnout among young, black and Hispanic voters increased as a share of the electorate relative to 2008.
Take a look at Ohio, where Ohio Republicans limited early voting hours as a way to decrease the African-American vote, which made up a majority of early voters in cities like Cleveland and Dayton. Early voting did fall relative to 2008 as a result of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s cutbacks in early voting days and hours, but the overall share of the black electorate increased from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012. More than anything else, that explains why Barack Obama once again carried the state.
I spent the weekend before the election in black churches in Cleveland, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the GOP’s push to curtail the rights of black voters made them even more motivated to cast a ballot. “When they went after big mama’s voting rights, they made all of us mad,” said Reverend Tony Minor, Ohio coordinator of the African American Ministers Leadership Council. According to CBS News: “More African-Americans voted in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida than in 2008.”
The same thing happened with the Latino vote, which increased as a share of the electorate (from 9 percent in 2008 to 10 percent in 2012) and broke even stronger for Obama than in 2008 (from 67-31 in 2008 to 71-27 in 2012, according to CNN exit polling). The share of the Latino vote increased in swing states like Nevada (up 4 percent), Florida (up 3 percent) and Colorado (up 1 percent). Increased turnout and increased support for Obama among Latinos exceeded the margin of victory for the president in these three swing states.
Racial minorities made up 28 percent of the electorate in 2012, up from 26 percent in 2008, and voted 80 percent for Obama. “Romney matched the best performance among white voters ever for a Republican challenger—and yet he lost decisively in the Electoral College,” wrote Ron Brownstein of National Journal. Minorities also accounted for 45 percent of Obama’s total vote. That means that in the not-so-distant-future, a Democrat will be able to win the presidency without needing a majority of white votes in his or her own coalition. In a country with growing diversity, if one party is committed to expanding the right to vote and the other party is committed to restricting the right to vote, it’s not hard to figure out which one will ultimately be more successful.
So much for voter suppression. So much for the enthusiasm gap. So much for the idea that smug, self-appointed arbiters of what is genuinely “American” were going to “take back” the country, as if it had somehow been stolen.
On Tuesday, millions of voters sent a resounding message to the take-it-back crowd: You won’t. You can’t. It’s our country, too.
President Obama and the Democratic Party scored what can be seen only as a comprehensive victory. Obama won the popular vote convincingly, and the electoral vote wasn’t close. In a year when it was hard to imagine how Democrats could avoid losing seats in the Senate, they won seats and increased their majority.
Republicans did keep control of the House, but to call this a “status quo” election is absurd. After the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans had the initiative and Democrats were reeling. After Tuesday, the dynamics are utterly reversed.
In 2008, Latinos were 13 percent of the electorate; about 60 percent voted for Obama. On Tuesday, Latinos made up 14 percent of Colorado voters — and, according to exit polls, three-fourths of them supported the president. Think that might have something to do with Romney’s “self-deportation” immigration policy? I do.
Nationwide, roughly three of every 10 voters Tuesday were minorities. African Americans chose Obama by 93 percent, Latinos by 71 percent and Asian Americans, the nation’s fastest-growing minority, by 73 percent.
Ok, now the election’s done. Good. Thank God—it went on about six months too long. There went a billion dollars that could’ve been used to help educate children or wipeout poverty or pay 1/16000th of our national debt. But at the end of the day, our guy (Obama) won, the best President ever for Tribes; a great champion for Native people, Tester, won; and Heitkamp also won. Good job everybody—thank you to all of the organizers, all the volunteers, all the Natives who fundraised, who spoke, who kept Native people as a relevant topic to the campaign. Heck, there was even a couple of Skins in Chicago in the headquarters on election night representing. ALL OF YOU did a great job.
Still, now is not the time for celebrating. Now is the time for working—in fact, the hard work only begins now.
In the past few months, there have been MANY people asking you to vote for specific candidates—Obama, Tester, Heitkamp, Inslee for example (and, of course, there were folks on “the other side” encouraging you to vote for their candidates as well). “Our” people won, in no small part due to the Native vote in various states. Now is the time to hold those candidates and their supporters accountable. If those candidates, their parties, and/or supporters (including me) cannot show how Native life is improving as a result of those candidates’ respective actions, then we need to reconsider how much value to put into those candidates’ and/or parties’ performances. That’s how this system works—“We give you support when you need it (during election time) and you give us support when we need it (when we need help with our issues).” That’s what the Jewish voting bloc has done for decades; that’s what the Hispanic voting bloc is beginning to do now.
NOTE TO ELIZABETH WARREN: Oh yeah, our favorite Cherokee—Elizabeth Warren—also won her Senatorial seat in Massachusetts. Despite her strategic, fictitious Native lineage that she leveraged to distinguish herself from other job candidates, she’s been dodging Indian media, Indian Democrats, Indian people. Heck, she probably doesn’t even sit Indian-style or bar-b-q during Indian Summer; she seems to want nothing to do with us. The truth is, she doesn’t have to be Native to be an ally—who cares? Inouye isn’t Native. Obama isn’t Native, although he is adopted Crow. Tester isn’t Native. He’s a big cornfed white boy rancher who happens to be one of the best champions that Native people have in DC. Therefore, this is an invitation to Senator Warren’s people—congratulations, and come talk to us. Otherwise, we’ll likewise hold you accountable.
President Barack Obama was declared the winner of Florida’s 29 electoral votes Saturday, ending a four-day count with a razor-thin margin that narrowly avoided an automatic recount that would have brought back memories of 2000.
No matter the outcome, Obama had already clinched re-election and now has 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.
The Florida Secretary of State’s Office said that with almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Obama led Republican challenger Mitt Romney 50 percent to 49.1 percent, a difference of about 74,000 votes. That was over the half-percent margin where a computer recount would have been automatically ordered unless Romney had waived it.
There is a Nov. 16 deadline for overseas and military ballots, but under Florida law, recounts are based on Saturday’s results. Only a handful of overseas and military ballots are believed to remain outstanding.
Light of the Future/Rays of Hope, a mural of Barack Obama in Bushwick, Brooklyn
From In These Times:
For this is the way the new power lies: Those who once dwelled at the margins of the Commonwealth have appropriated the language of their colonial masters and used it with great degree of articulation as they inch toward the center, crossing all kinds of demarcations, dispelling the old myth. If Crusoe contends that he still is the lead actor, Friday is far from being content to playing subservient and sidekick any longer.
That old superior-inferior fiction is further supplanted and eroded by the way history flows. Major cities have become highly diverse, and demographer point to the inevitable: by the year of 2050 whites will become a minority, just like the rest.
It was Defoe’s conceit in his novel—published in 1719 and considered by many as the first novel written in English—that the “savage” can only be redeemed by assimilation into Crusoe’s culture and religion. It was beyond his power of imagination, however, to see how much Friday, in time, could radically change Crusoe, and that the world of Crusoe’s is forever altered for having absorbed Friday.
But on November 4, 2008, Friday spoke up loud and clear and eloquently, and declared himself an equal. And his voice is reaffirmed on November 6, 2012. He tells us to dare to dream big, for change has already come and the world forever changed. He tells us to dare to dream big, even this once considered impossible dream: Son of Africa becomes the new patriarch of America.
The old curse ends. Some internalized threshold for previously subjugated people is breached. A child of any race in America now has a fighting chance. Those dwelling at the margins can see a path toward the center, crossing all kinds of demarcations. He knows now it’s within his powers to articulate and reshape his new world, regardless the color of his skin, and to have the audacity to play central character of the script of his own making.
The president’s victory was a triumph of vision, not of demographics. He won because he articulated a set of values that define an America that the majority of us wish to live in: A nation that makes the investments we need to strengthen and grow the middle class. A nation with a fair tax system, and affordable and excellent education for all its citizens. A nation that believes that we’re most prosperous when we recognize that we are all in it together.
Two key data points illustrate why Americans were always far more open to President Obama’s message and accomplishments than commentators assumed. By a three to one margin (74 percent to 23 percent), voters said that what the country faced since 2008 was an “extraordinary crisis more severe than we’ve seen in decades” as opposed to “a typical recession that the country has every several years.” At the same time, a clear majority, 57 percent, believed that the problems we faced after the crisis were “too severe for anyone to fix in a single term,” while only 4 in 10 voters believed another president would have been able to do more than Mr. Obama to get the economy moving in the past four years.
President Obama offered Americans a clear, forward-looking vision that focused on creating a stronger, more secure future for average Americans and their children, built on investments we need as a nation and a balanced approach to fiscal issues such as taxes and deficit reduction. Spending cuts alone could not address voter concerns — 89 percent of those surveyed agreed that “for my children to have the economic opportunities I’ve had, we need to make real investments in education, creating world-class schools and making college more affordable.” Mitt Romney’s negative drumbeat about the president’s record and his insistence that our economic agenda was failing were essentially tone-deaf, missing the mark with voters to such an extent that they undermined the central premise of his candidacy — his economic expertise. Mr. Romney was describing a reality that was disconnected from voters’ lives and from the context within which they viewed the economy.
The president’s forward-looking approach resonated strongly with American voters, who by a margin of 77 percent to 17 percent said that which candidate would make their life better four years from now was more important to their vote than whether they were better off four years ago. And voters simply didn’t believe that Mr. Romney was on their side. When asked about a series of issues that might concern them about each candidate, voters’ top worry about Mr. Romney was “he won’t do enough to restore security for working- and middle-class families,” closely followed by “he won’t do enough to ensure that Wall Street and big corporations have to play by the same rules as everyone else.” In fact, when voters heard him talk about “job creators,” 52 percent of voters thought he was talking about big corporations while only 34 percent thought he was referring to the small businesses that voters believe are the engines of economic growth and innovation. And fully 94 percent of voters say that they are “more likely to support companies that are doing their part to help the community or people in need.”
Benenson was President Obama’s chief pollster during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns.