From The Grio — An Obama will again address the NAACP’s annual convention starting July 9 in Kansas City. It just won’t be President Obama. He spoke last year to the convention, but will not be making a return engagement. First Lady Michelle Obama will give a talk, and it’s not really billed as a keynote speech, more an informal workshop type discussion on her signature issue, the campaign against childhood obesity. She’s not listed in the confab’s 10 page schedule of speakers, panels and workshops.
There are two theories about the president’s no-show at the convention. One he’s adhering to his avowed, cautious, goal of doing and saying nothing that belies his race neutral stance as the president of all the people. An appearance or a message to the convention wouldn’t violate that. Obama appeared last year and there was no issue. And every Democratic and GOP president including Reagan and George. W. Bush has either spoke to the convention or delivered a message to the convention since there’s been an NAACP convention. With the exception of Bush, and only because he boycotted the convention for the first six years of his White House tenure, presidential addresses raise no eyebrows.
Another possibility is that Obama fears that an appearance before a racial advocacy group like the NAACP will give more ammunition to the Obama loathers, Palin and Tea Party activists. This is even less plausible. A no-show at the NAACP convention won’t do anything to stop their non-stop opposition of his agenda and him. And he almost certainly knows that.
Obama did not give an official reason why he’s skipping the convention. But one can fill in the surface blank. His plate is full with Afghanistan funding and logistic problems, putting the finishing touches on the financial reform bill, addressing the ongoing BP spill, and the looming fight over energy reform bill, stalled jobless funding bills, and the never-ending requests to promote Democratic candidates. These are all plausible reasons for skipping the convention. But there are problems with his failure to appear. He’ll be in Kansas City the day before the start of the convention to attend a fundraiser for Democratic Senate hopeful Robin Carnahan; so isn’t a schedule tweak possible? If not, a video message from Obama to the convention is certainly more than doable. An appearance or a message from him is the politically expedient, the practical and just simply the right thing to do.
The black vote has been the Democrats’ trump card in every election for the past half century, win or lose. If black voters had not turned the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries into a virtual holy crusade for Obama, and if Obama had not openly in the South Carolina primary and subtly in primaries thereafter stoked the black vote, he could easily have been just another failed Democratic presidential candidate. The Through its voter education, awareness, and mobilization campaigns, the NAACP played a enormous role in galvanizing and boosting the numbers of black voters, nearly all votes for Obama.
Photo Source: AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari