By Clarence Lusane

The White House must draw the right conclusions from recent dismal polls.

President Obama's popularity is at its lowest point since taking office. A Gallup poll has him at a 41 percent approval rating. Although other polls have him closer to 45 percent, none is encouraging.

The polls demonstrate that much of the disapproval is coming from segments of the voters who will not support Obama under any circumstances. The voters who are feeling no love for Obama are older, less educated, higher income, more religious -- and more white. Among whites, he has only a 39 percent approval rating.

There may not be much Obama can do about this constituency.

What the Obama team really needs to worry about -- ignored by most analysts -- is the drop in support from black and Latino voters. Although his support among blacks is still in the stratosphere, and although it is a bit above 50 percent among Latinos, the trends are all in the wrong direction.

In January 2010, he had a 92 percent approval rating from blacks; now it's 85 percent. Back then, Latinos gave him a 65 percent approval rating; now it's 54 percent. Even more ominous, in January 2009, Latinos gave Obama a 73 percent approval rating.

Given the configuration of Obama's 2008 win, he absolutely must have every black and Latino vote he can garner. He will not only need over 90 percent of the black vote and perhaps 70 percent of the Latino vote; he will also need an extremely high turnout from both.

Weakening black support is being driven by a number of factors, some practical, others more philosophical. At over 15 percent, black unemployment is nearly twice that of whites and Asians, and it is not falling the way it is for these other groups.

The recession is having a disproportionately negative impact on people of color. As a new report by the Center for Social Inclusion notes, referring to blacks and Latinos, "The recession is not over -- it is just hitting its stride."

Lack of an immigration policy, failure to pass the DREAM Act and sky high deportations have moved some Latinos away from the administration, though it is hard to imagine that the anti-immigrant Republicans will end up receiving strong support from them.

At a more general level, there is a palatable frustration that the Obama administration has run away from race issues. The persistent disparities that exist regarding access to health care and quality education, and the ongoing discrimination within our criminal justice system, gnaw at blacks and Latinos.

Obama has refused to embrace any race-specific policies to address these inequities, even though only a sharp focus on these issues will begin to resolve them.

As a result, Obama's appeal is perceived by a growing number of blacks as largely symbolic. And his main argument seems to be, "I'm better than the Republicans."

That may not enough to inspire the turnout he needs from blacks and Latinos.

Clarence Lusane, Ph.D., is the program director/associate professor of comparative and regional studies in the School of International Service at American University. He can be reached at

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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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