Hey, so Obama screwed you over. So vote for Grandma Clinton. That should do the trick.
During those two electric Novembers, the chance to elect a black president, and then keep him in office, seized Regenia Motley’s neighborhood.
Nightclubs were registering voters. Churches held fish fries after loading buses that ferried parishioners to the polls. A truck hoisted a big sign that said “Obama.” And residents waited in long lines at precincts across the community.
But as Motley and some friends sought shade recently under a mulberry tree and looked across the landscape of empty lots and abandoned houses that has persisted here, they wondered whether they would ever bother voting again.
“What was the point?” asked Motley, 23, a grocery store clerk. “We made history, but I don’t see change.”
Obviously it’s not Obama’s fault. Nothing ever is. But make sure you vote for Hillary Clinton out of blind obedience.
On Jacksonville’s north side and in other struggling urban neighborhoods across the country, where Barack Obama mobilized large numbers of new African American voters who were inspired partly by the emotional draw of his biography, high hopes have turned to frustration: Even a black president was unable to heal places still gripped by violence, drugs and joblessness.
The dynamic, made prominent in recent months after unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., sets up a stark challenge for Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner.
While supporting Obama became a cause for many here rather than a typical campaign, Clinton faces a higher bar in making a case that she, too, can be a transformative figure.
Oh yeah, a reclusive multimillionaire is going to be transformative alright. Can’t wait.
Yet as her allies prepare to register voters and expand the black electorate, her candidacy presents residents here with a question: If Obama’s presidency didn’t do more to help African Americans, then how could hers?
Dirty little secret, folks: It’s not.
“At least with Obama, he gave pride to our young men and was a good role model,” said Daniel “Happy Jack” Cobb Jr., 73, the owner of Happy Jack’s Grocery and Market on Jacksonville’s north side. “Hillary needs to prove to us that she’s genuine and really true. And I’m not even sure that would help. We’ve been snakebitten too many times before.”
Well, they do have a young senator in their own state running for president. Might want to consider him.
But now, as the Obama era draws to a close, that excitement has dimmed.
On the north side, gang violence and drug use have surged. In April, 33 Jacksonville residents were shot, including seven who were killed. A group of pastors held a news conference and declared the city a “war zone.”
For the friends who gathered recently to hang out in the shade of the mulberry tree, it will be hard to justify the effort of turning out and voting next year when so little has changed — and some things feel worse.
“We got the president his job,” Motley said. “But did he help us get any good jobs? I still need a raise.”
Weird how they got the president his job even though the GOP supposedly is trying to deny them the vote.
The conversation became heated. Another said he’d love to vote but could not because of his felony conviction. Another complained that she couldn’t get a raise in eight years.
“We all struggling,” said another. One man became so uncomfortable, he removed his T-shirt, wrapped it around his head and walked away. The shirt read “Obama ’08.”