African-American Vote: Obama Is a 'Man Not a Savior'


African Americans Critical of Obama's Aloofness

African-Americans have never abandoned Obama, but many have been critical of the way he has pandered to other constituencies. Some have said he has ignored his roots and failed to publicly identify with the African-American community.

"Barack Obama is not a Martin Luther King Jr. -- people recognize that," argued the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, who has led the historic Abyssinian Church in Harlem for 40 years. "There is a greater sense of reality. He is a man not a savior."

"Now, we are voting not so much about these kinds of things but that fact that we need jobs created," he said. "People are a little angry because we still recognize what conditions the country is in."

But African-Americans largely credit Obama with creating the Affordable Health Care Act, supporting the failing auto industry and jump-starting the ailing economy, according to Butts.

"There is still an enormous amount of pride," said Butts. "People recognize him as the first African American president, but he's got certain constituency groups pulling on him."

Supportive of Wall Street, yet still "putting their feet to the fire," Butts said Obama had accomplished a "tricky dance."

"He's in a unique position," said Butts. "It's just complicated and I give the president credit for managing to walk a complicated path with great dignity and integrity and I think the black community sees that."

Butts reported a "flurry of activity" in Harlem today at the polls. "In the street, people are excited--people don't like the attacks on the president. They love him and think he has done quite a good job."

"People should not underestimate the African-American community," he said.

Most educated African-Americans realize that Obama is not just a black man's president, answering to "only a handful," but the leader of the free world, he said.

"We've got a good man in office," said Butts. "He's smart and he's demonstrated know-how. There are problems, but I see an upward trajectory, not change now. We are out of Iraq, we are coming out of Afghanistan ... Barack Obama has done all the heavy lifting."

Top on Obama's agenda for the next four years should be three things, according to Butts: job creation; education reform, particularly in support of the public schools; and a foreign policy that pays attention to Africa.

At the same time, African-Americans want dollars focused in America after disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

He predicts African-Americans will help boost the razor-close numbers to give President Obama four more years. "We're not going to let someone like Romney come in and while things get better, claim all the credit."

"I think Obama is going to win," said Butts. "And that is the audacity of hope."


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