barack-obama-3_web.jpgWith the campaigning mostly done and the debates over, in the final analysis the decision as to whom to vote for as president comes down to this simple question: Who will support your concerns?

The choice before Americans on Nov. 6 is between the incumbent, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican. Mr. Obama made history four years ago when he became the first black president; Mr. Romney is hoping to make history also as the first Mormon president.

As far as Black America is concerned, there is really no choice. Having a black man (or woman) in the White House is the realization of the most important collective aspiration of the black race. Keeping him in office as long as possible is a logical extension of that dream. But it is not just the color of his skin that must be the determining factor. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is proof of that.

Rather, Mr. Obama has shown that he is steeped in the black cultural experience and, while it may not be evident to some, he has been a fierce defender of the social, political and economic causes which African Americans hold dear – while at the same time being president of all Americans.

Indeed, Mr. Obama is not without criticism in the black community. His support for the right of gays to marry has drawn fiery denunciation among some pastors, even though it is a personal view that has no official significance.

The intolerably high rate of employment among African Americans is another source of great concern, even though Mr. Obama inherited an economy that was collapsing and, regardless of what his detractors say, he has put it back on track and is headed in the right direction.

Mr. Obama succeeded in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, even while beset by the disastrous policies which he inherited from his predecessor and under siege by Republicans in Congress determined to make his administration a failure and deny him a second term. He has still kept faith with the nation.

He has provided stable leadership at a time of great international turmoil and the United States is poised to emerge from the storm clouds into the sunshine of a brighter future.

In Mr. Obama, Black America has a friend in the White House.

Can Mr. Romney be a friend as well? Who knows? Perhaps he himself does not. His positions have changed so many times during this campaign that it is difficult to ascertain what he stands for.

He cast off and shunned his record as governor of Massachusetts while he sought the Republican nomination, reversing himself on a variety of issues and embracing some of the most rabid rightwing policies promulgated by the far right and rightwing fringe groups to successfully outmaneuver opponents.

In recent weeks, as the election has drawn near, he has tried to remake himself now as a moderate Republican whose policies, when the rhetoric is stripped away, are remarkably close to those of Mr. Obama.

That is not surprising because Mr. Romney is now appealing to the independent voters who would not support many of the positions he took while campaigning for the nomination.

So which Mitt Romney is now presenting himself for president?

The most important character trait Americans want in their president is trustworthiness. Given his various makeovers and Etch-a-Sketch transformations, to use his campaign’s own words, there is no certainty just what policies he would take to the White House.

And Mr. Romney has not said much about Black America, apart from the fact that he had to be aware that the 47 percent of the country he demonized as too lazy to bestir themselves and pursue the American dream include much of Black America.

But perhaps it is a good thing he has not said much about blacks, because, with his penchant for political expediency, he might just have proclaimed he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and was present in the room when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.

No, being black by itself is not the deciding factor when voting for the president.

There must be solid recognition that there are circumstances in which some Americans find themselves that have to do with the country’s racist past and there has never been a clean slate or a level playing field for all citizens. Mr. Romney’s background and his philosophy point to a presidency that would, whatever else it does, favor the super-rich at the detriment of all others.

A second Obama administration, on the other hand, will build on the successes of the past four years and steer the ship of state responsibly, with all on board treated as equals.

The South Florida Times endorses Barack Obama for president.