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The politics of change

1/20/2010, 2:32 a.m.
“You don’t see any of...
“You don’t see any of us over there.”

The politics of change

It is normal for disgruntled constituents to protest the perceived failings of government policy. During a recession such as the country is now experiencing, it is reasonable to expect that the voices of protest would be quite loud.

American society has become so complex that it is difficult for the average citizen to comprehend all the implications of government proposals, so fear of change takes hold. A political candidate for change might be inspiring during the campaign, but new policies provoke anxiety.

Unfortunately, change is part of the very nature of the universe. Even a successful society that allows itself to be trapped by tradition will become beset with problems. President Barack Obama has had to contend with all sorts of protesting citizens.

First there were the Birthers who insisted that Obama’s election was unconstitutional because he was not born in the United States. Then came those who insisted that his health reform proposal would deny care to the elderly in order to save money. Now come the Tea Party protesters who seem to oppose any kind of change and any tax increase to support change.

Another group of protesters that has emerged, surprisingly, are some African Americans who insist that Obama has not done enough for blacks. Indeed, problems confronted by blacks at this time are more severe than those faced by whites. Unemployment is greater and the mortgage foreclosure rate is higher, but there is little opportunity for the president to develop solutions that are special for blacks.

As well intentioned as these black protests might be, there is little indication that they have the support of most African Americans. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center from Oct. 28 to Nov. 30, 2009 indicated a high level of optimism among blacks.

According to the poll, 39 percent of blacks now say that “the situation of black people in this country” is better than it was five years ago. When this question was asked in 2007 only 20 percent agreed. Blacks are now twice as optimistic. Similarly, 53 percent now think that life for blacks will be better in the future and only 10 percent think it will be worse. In 2007, 44 percent were optimistic about the future and 21 percent thought that life would be worse.

Clearly, this optimism has resulted from Obama’s election. Black support for Obama has remained strong at 95 percent. While white support was at 76 percent before Obama’s inauguration, it has declined to 56 percent. Even now, 80 percent of blacks polled said that Obama is giving the right attention to black issues.

Black leaders should be aware that the Pew poll has revealed a substantial change in black attitudes. Surprisingly, 52 percent said that “blacks who cannot get ahead in this country are mainly responsible for their own situation.”  Only 34 percent were willing to blame racial discrimination. In a similar poll in 1994, 60 percent blamed racial discrimination for failure and only 34 percent cited personal responsibility.

Wisely, Obama never attributes his race as the cause of opposition. However, those not influenced by Obama’s political imperative must wonder whether some whites are disturbed by the growing impact of minorities. America has always been an overwhelmingly white nation, but now the white population is only 66 percent of the total. By 2050, that number is projected to decline to 49 percent.

Protesters have a patriotic responsibility to assure that racial diversity prevails, so that America can flourish as the home for all of its citizens.