Saturday, May 2, 2009

Barack Obama Gets Minority Support without Doing Anything for them

Two nights before his inauguration, Barack Obama got a lesson in managing the expectations of minority groups critical to his election as the first African-American president.

Hundreds of exultant revelers -- including Latino pop stars and leaders of Hispanic organizations -- packed into Washington's Union Station for a pre-inauguration ball. But neither the president-elect nor a surrogate appeared onstage.

Speakers and performers vented their frustration at the perceived snub to a cardboard cutout of Mr. Obama placed on stage -- and sharply warned that he had to deliver on a list of issues, such as easing the legalization of undocumented workers.

"It was a bit surprising that there wasn't a representative," said Maria Teresa Petersen, executive director of Voto Latino, whose get-out-the-vote campaign helped increase Hispanic turnout -- giving a boost to Mr. Obama. "There was disappointment."

[Race Matters]

Since then, the president and his advisers, who declined to comment about the January event, have pursued a quietly nuanced agenda on race. Mr. Obama rarely speaks publicly of race or his historic election. But aides have maintained a behind-closed-doors dialogue with black and Hispanic leaders that has reassured them their key issues will be addressed, according to Ms. Petersen and others. The approach appears, based on his broad popularity in polling, to have assuaged pre-election anxieties of some white voters that he would be disproportionately focused on minority issues.

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