Romney's NAACP outreach a dismal failure

If there was any chance of Mitt Romney garnering significant support from African-Americans, that chance has gone from slim to none thanks to his performance at the NAACP’s annual conference.

Romney was booed when he labeled President Obama’s Affordable Care Act as “nonessential and expensive.” The Republican candidate chose the wrong audience for that boilerplate. He was standing before a group of people that has long experienced the highest rates of health disparities.

“Infants born to black women are 1.5 to three times more likely to die than infants born to women of other races/ethnicities,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also found that “black men and women are much more likely to die of heart disease and stroke than their white counterparts.”

For African-Americans, access to health care is absolutely essential.

For Romney to assume no backlash would come his way after criticizing the nation’s first African-American president in front of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is absurd. Also absurd was his claim that voting for him, rather than Obama, would be in “the real, enduring best interest of African-American families.”

Depriving them of health care certainly wouldn’t be in their best interest.

Nor would Romney’s economic medicine. He constantly ridicules Obama’s record on this front, but the Obama administration notes that its initial stimulus program “kept 1.3 million African-Americans out of poverty” in 2010 by creating jobs and reducing taxes. Romney’s tax policies, by contrast, would largely favor those in the top 1 percent.

Romney did say something that was on target, however. “If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, then a chronically bad economy would be equally bad for everyone,” Romney said. “Instead, it’s worse for African-Americans in almost every way.” The problem is that Romney would make equal opportunity and a good economy further out of reach.

His attempt to compete with Obama for the black vote is bound to fail. A recent Gallup poll showed 87 percent of blacks supporting the president compared to the 5 percent who support Romney.

He certainly didn’t help himself at the NAACP conference by insulting our intelligence.

• Jessica M. Strong is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Readers may write to the author at: Progressive Media Project, 409 East Main Street, Madison, Wis. 53703; email: pmproj@progressive.org; Web site: www.progressive.org. For information on PMP’s funding, please visit http://www.progressive.org/pmpabout.html#anchorsupport.

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