Two years after the election of the nation’s first Black President, voters will go to the polls to cast ballots for candidates seeking seats in the U.S. House of Representative and Senate. Traditionally, the midterm election is a referendum on the sitting President and party in the majority in Congress. For all the wrong reasons, primarily tied to the race of this President, we believe the electorate is judging this administration more harshly. It is why we are urging Black voters to make their presence felt at the polls on Tuesday.
In 2008, Blacks came out to vote in droves, excited by the prospect of making history by electing a Black American to the nation’s highest office. Too many of us, though, act as if the 2008 election was “mission accomplished.” It was not. In fact, it was just the beginning of the fight to transform our nation. The real work continues and Tuesday represents another critical moment in that transformation. It is not enough to have a President that looks like us. We must also have a Congress that acts in our best interest. Moreover, we must demonstrate the willingness to challenge a White House we consider philosophically aligned with Black progress. True political power is not voting behavior in one election. It is the result of a consistent engagement of the political process. On Tuesday, we must show that we are prepared to wield power.
We do not agree with President Obama on every issue, and we have taken the liberty to criticize him and the administration when we believe they are off course. Yet, we are mindful of what preceded the Obama era and the havoc the Bush administration unleashed in this nation. The economic hole President Obama and the Democratic Congress is filling, was dug by President George W. Bush and a Republican Congress. This administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress faced a crisis of historic proportion when they assumed control two years ago. It is unreasonable to think that in two years they could undo the damage inflicted by the previous eight years of bad policy choices. As it stands, the President saved most of the nation, except for Blacks, from a Depression and many of the initiatives put forth by Mr. Obama have slowly taken root. He is moving to return our troops from Iraq and working to turn the tide in Afghanistan. President Obama can also take credit for leading the nation to a more sensible health care system. Still, we acknowledge that there is much work ahead, but we have more confidence in a President who is attempting to lead than those who were part of a regime that misled.
We are always hesitant to take a stridently partisan view. However, the choice is clear for this election. While Democrats do not always deal honestly with the Black community, and have not fully reciprocated for our support, the Republican Party has been that much worse. The GOP has made no real effort to engage the Black electorate and have only offered token rhetoric regarding diversity. Despite the presence of a Black party chairman, the Republican Party has comfortably adopted an extremist mentality and embraced elements in our nation that see no place in America for people of color. The extremism of some elements of the Tea Party, the on-air rhetoric of cable news personalities and the acquiescence of “mainstream” Republican leaders has created an impenetrable wall for many Blacks. In much the same way Dixiecrats commandeered Democratic politics for much of the 20th century, the right has had its way with the GOP and there has been little pushback to rid the party of its most extreme voices.
You can be part of a real movement toward a different nation if you simply vote on Tuesday. We urge you to not simply cast a solitary vote but call your friends, family and colleagues to vote too. Be proactive and make sure people in your circle know where to vote and have a ride to the polls. Lastly, take your children with you to the polls. We have to instill a culture of civic participation in our children and one of the best ways is to lead by example. In many ways, Tuesday is just as important as the 2008 election. Send a message to forces in our nation who resent Black progress, and make your voice heard. You don’t owe it to President Obama. You owe it to yourself.