CBC Chairman suggests Obama may get a pass from black community

September 18, 2012

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) suggested in an interview that black voters are more lenient when it comes to evaluating President Obama's policies because he is also black.

“Well, I'm supposed to say he doesn't get a pass, but I'm not going to say that,” Cleaver said in an interview with The Root published Monday. “Look, as the chair of the Black Caucus I've got to tell you, we are always hesitant to criticize the president. With 14 percent [black] unemployment if we had a white president we'd be marching around the White House. However, I [also] don't think the Irish would do that to the first Irish president or Jews would do that to the first Jewish president; but we're human and we have a sense of pride about the president.”

The Coalition of African American Pastors has criticized the president for saying that same-sex marriage should be legal, and Cleaver, who has been a pastor for many years, was asked in the interview whether Obama’s position on same-sex marriage will hurt him with black voters. He said he believed Obama’s stance would reduce support, but only marginally.

“Will there be some black voter drop because of the same-sex marriage issue? The answer is, unquestionably, yes,” Cleaver said. “Will it be significant? No. Will black folk vote for the president with some anger toward that position? Yes. But the black voter is growing more sophisticated, in part because the president has been elevated to the highest office on the planet, so more black Americans are paying attention now and in the last four years than in the past.”

Cleaver supported then-senator Hillary Clinton of New York over Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. He was asked how a Clinton presidency would have been different from Obama's tenure. 

“Well, we wouldn't have had a lot of racial stuff, and as much as I love Sen. Clinton I would have been all over her on 14 percent unemployment for African Americans. I would have said, 'My sister, I love you, but this has got to go,'” he said.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Sean Sullivan · September 18, 2012