At several points during this campaign, Barack Obama has urged voters to support Hillary Clinton not because of her long experience, or because of his estimation that Donald Trump is “uniquely unqualified” for the Presidency, but in order to preserve his own legacy. He said this most explicitly at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual dinner, in September, where he implored African-Americans to back the Democratic candidate. “After we have achieved historic turnout in 2008 and 2012, especially in the African-American community, I will consider it a personal insult—an insult to my legacy—if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election,” Obama said. “You want to give me a good send-off? Go vote.” Obama’s two Presidential campaigns were defined in part by the black voters they brought to the polls. In both 2008 and 2012, African-American women voted at a higher rate than any other demographic group in the country. In recent months, Obama has been asking those voters to preserve the work of his Administration: Trump has promised to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Iran deal. But, aside from his desire to protect those policies, by appealing to black voters to go to the polls he was also asking them to counter a new effort to suppress the black vote, which grew in strength during his Presidency.
On November 5, 2008, the morning after Obama’s election, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial noting that “a man of mixed race has now reached the pinnacle of U.S. power only two generations since the end of Jim Crow.” To the Journal, this was “a tribute to American opportunity,” and proof that egalitarianism had triumphed in the United States. “One promise of his victory is that perhaps we can put to rest the myth of racism as a barrier to achievement in this splendid country,” the editors wrote. “Mr. Obama has a special obligation to help do so.”
Throughout the campaign in 2008, Obama alternately laughed off and rejected the idea that his campaign could or would allow the country to transcend its history of racism. In a speech on race, given in response to reports about the inflammatory sermons of his longtime pastor, Jeremiah Wright, he remarked that, “contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial division in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy—particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.”
Yet the idea that Obama’s candidacy represented “racial reconciliation on the cheap,” as he put it in that speech, persisted into his Presidency. A version of the Journal’s argument appeared in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court decision that, in 2013, gutted the Voting Rights Act.
Full Article: Suppression of the Black Vote Is No Relic – The New Yorker.