Despite a stalled economic recovery and high joblessness among African Americans, President Barack Obama appears to enjoy solid support in Philadelphia’s predominantly black Germantown neighborhood, a Democratic stronghold where he took 97 percent of the vote over Republican John McCain four years ago.
And, those who helped Obama win the presidency in 2008 vow to turn out for him again on Nov. 6.
“I would have to be dead not to vote in November and of course I’m voting for Obama!” said Adrienne Morrison, a Germantown writer and artist who also volunteers at Center in the Park, a senior center.
“He is the best candidate because he understands what the people want and, being a mixed [race] person growing up in hard times, he understands us, the people,” she continued.
Unemployment and partisanship are concerns
Last month, as unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent nationally, joblessness remained at 13.4 percent for African Americans, about where it’s been all year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While many in Germantown are disappointed that the Obama administration hasn’t made more progress in reducing unemployment, they credit Obama with winning passage of health-care reform.
They also say he’s done the best he can given the problems he inherited from the Bush administration and legislative opposition from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“You can’t get upset over issues he couldn’t apply himself to yet,” said Thomas Hall, 50, a Germantown native, as he waited for the J bus at the corner of Greene Street and Chelten Avenue. “You need to focus on what he could get done.”
Hall, who praised Obama for his health-care plan and protecting Medicare, said the president’s performance over the past four years was “adequate for the mess he was given.”
He said Obama needs a second term to “iron things out,” including what Hall said were much-needed cuts to the military budget as the war in Afghanistan winds down.
These are among the views of some two dozen Germantown residents interviewed at random after the first debate between the incumbent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, on Oct. 3.
For the most part, residents said they did not watch the debate and didn’t much care about a consensus among pundits that Obama turned in a lackluster performance.
A second debate between Obama and Romney will be held at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Turnout their focus in wake of voter ID law
Pennsylvania’s new photo ID law had threatened to diminish Obama’s vote in low-income neighborhoods like Germantown, but a judge has now set aside implementation of the law until after the Nov. 6 election. Still, as the race tightens in Pennsylvania, Obama is expected to need a large turnout in Philadelphia in order to take the state.
Spot interviews indicate that, if anything, the controversy over the photo ID law may have strengthened the resolve of Germantown residents to vote by heightening awareness of the issues at stake.
Supporters explain why
Quadrick Carter, for instance, didn’t vote in 2004, but is determined to vote for Obama on Nov. 6 because he opposes Romney’s plan to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for upper-income Americans. Romney “basically favors the rich,” said Carter while visiting Germantown’s Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library.
Dolores Brabham, a retired medical assistant, credited the Obama administration with helping her get a new heater for her home through a federally supported winterization program. Obama “was left with a lot of problems because of Bush, and even with these problems, he has made a difference in my life,” she said.
Renee Shields, 59, a team leader in a voter-registration drive in Germantown, credited Obama with helping bail out the American auto industry and other firms hard hit by the global economic crisis in 2008. She said the president “saved the country from collapsing.”
Germantown resident Esterlina Fernandez, 51, noted that she lived in Boston when Romney was governor. She echoed Carter’s sentiment in saying, “he doesn’t like poor ‘white trash’ and he doesn’t like poor black people.” She also said she was determined to vote to ensure her grandchildren will be able to get a good education.
Not everyone was excited to vote
One person randomly polled said he probably was not going to vote “because I don’t like politics.”
“I try not to pay much attention to that stuff because half the time, they are just bashing each other,” said the man who identified himself only as Mark as he finished shopping at Fresh Grocer on Chew Avenue. “Plus, it’s hard to understand most of that stuff. But if I did, I would vote for Obama because that’s who my dad wanted.”
Zachary Albertini, Luz Ayala, Philip Consalvo and Colin Washington are La Salle University students who write for GermantownBeat, a local student-produced news site. NewsWorks features articles from GermantownBeat on its Northwest Philadelphia community sites and contributes multimedia journalism training to the program.