Election Notebook 2012: All politics is local, even when the VP is in town



The myth is that Obama-Biden supporters are unquestionably behind the candidate, no matter what. I’ve heard “black voters only voted for him because he’s black” so often, it no longer offends. I’m just kind of numb to it. It implies that African Americans are unthinking sheep and ignores the fact that black voters have been voting straight ticket for years, even when soul brother No. 1 Al Gore led the ticket.

It also ignores the questions that loyal African American Obama supporters often have about policies and results. On Tuesday, Vice President Biden stopped in Charlotte for the first time since his DNC speech, at The Fillmore. There was enthusiasm, for sure. When I asked why band director Duncan C. Gray had his West Charlotte “Pride of the Queen City” in front performing, he told me, “Come on, now. Who’s here?” But he acknowledged that a lot of people are still struggling. “It’s tough on the average family,” he said.

While he thought more could have been done in the last four years, he said that considering Obama's lack of support in Congress and what he inherited, the president has done a “remarkable” job. Gray acknowledged Biden can sometimes go off script; “he cuts it really close.” Still, “you need a Joe Biden in your corner, just in case you didn’t understand what I’m saying.”

The band’s appearance was also an advertisement for West Charlotte, a school that’s had public problems Gray acknowledged, particularly with test scores and a high dropout rate. “What we’re doing is successful,” he said, citing the academic standards of the band, plus hours of rehearsal. “Every educational facility has its problems.”

City council member LaWana Mayfield could not have been mistaken for anything other than an Obama-Biden supporter. Referring to Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments, she said, “When that comes from your mouth, you can’t dispute it.” But she also had in mind the people in District 3, the ones she represents and are forgotten, she said, in the rhetorical flourishes; it includes her own situation as a full-time council member who earns less than $25,000 a year, she said. Mayfield said she’s lucky her partner “takes up all the household responsibilities.”

It’s smart political strategy for the president and vice president to concentrate on the middle class, she said. “He has to represent the entire country.” But middle class? “I’m not in that,” said Mayfield, as Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” played on the Fillmore sound system.

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's “She the People” blog, The Root and theGrio. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.

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