Obama’s Agenda Was Focus, But Detroiters Let Themselves Down

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press, November 3, 2010

Two years ago, President Barack Obama was on the ballot. Tuesday, his agenda was.

By 8 p.m. it was clear: Obama lost Detroit. And Michigan. And control of the Congress.

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And on a day when, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, black voters could have determined the makeup of Congress, turnout was less than 15% in the American city and Democratic stronghold that has had the highest unemployment in the country and where nearly one in two working-age adults cannot read well enough to get a family-sustaining job.

His focus isn’t on just 1 group

President Obama’s strong adherence to a one-size-fits-all way of governing may, ironically, have cost him support at a time when he needs it most. In a recent White House interview with black columnists, Obama, when asked how he planned to reach out to black voters, said that his message was not “focused on particular ethnic groups.”

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Yet Tuesday, the president phoned in to several African-American-centered radio programs seeking support.

Heaster Wheeler, executive director of the Detroit Branch NAACP, said that too much pressure, particularly in Detroit, is put on black voters.

“The reality is, you cannot go into a depressed community and impress voters with the need to do anything because they don’t believe their lives are going to change,” he said. “You cannot tell people who don’t have a transportation system that can take them to an opportunity, who can’t keep the heat and lights on in their house, that they have undue responsibility.”

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‘Shame on us!’

The political reality is this: There are more people in Detroit than in the state’s next eight largest cities combined. There are more registered voters. Detroit used to determine state political outcomes. But many Detroit voters decided Tuesday that neither the president’s agenda nor their own plight was worth the fight.

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Apparently, neither President Obama nor Wendell Anthony, who declined to return calls Tuesday, could get most Detroit voters to the polls.

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