There may be no better illustration of President Barack Obama’s appeal than his ability to hold onto voters — minorities, single moms and young people — who have fared the worst under his presidency. The big question as we approach Election Day may be whether these constituencies, having been mauled by the economy, will show up in sufficient numbers to ensure Obama’s re-election.
Welcome to the politics of disappointment. Much has been said about the problems facing the middle class, which has been losing out since the 1970s. But the biggest recent losers have been groups like African-Americans and Latinos. In the current economic downturn, middle class African-Americans have lost virtually all the gains they made over the past 30 years, according to the National Urban League. Median annual household income for blacks declined by more than 11 percent from June 2009 to June 2012, according to the Census bureau. That’s twice the loss suffered by whites.
African-Americans and Latinos have also borne much of the pain from the housing downturn. Latinos suffered the biggest loss of net worth in the recession — largely based on decline in housing values — of any ethnic group, according to the Census. Weakness in the housing market, now only beginning to recover, also hurt many Latino workers, who represent a large part of the nation’s construction industry labor force.
Latinos have been doing so poorly under Obama’s tepid recovery that, by some estimates, more are headed back to Mexico than coming here. Many voters who might make a difference in November could be in Michoacán or Oaxaca rather than Michigan or Ohio.
As for the young, even those with college education, they still suffer high unemployment rates and constricted job opportunities. More than 15 percent of all age 18- to 24-year-old workers are unemployed.