Many Americans are caught in the politics of the moment following the emotionally draining presidential election of November 6. It appears many white voters are still in shock, and some even seem to be experiencing various stages of grief to the point of pushing secession proposals to disengage from the Republic. The seeming anger of many whites at the re-election of President Obama is surpassing even the ugliness that was evident following his historic victory four years ago. For these distressed voters losing once to an African-American was bad enough, to lose twice, and take a loss in an election where many believed the white candidate would win by a wide margin, is damn near apocalyptic for many white voters.
African-Americans, on the other hand, are still shell shocked; ecstatic that President Obama secured a second term but emotionally drained by an election in which they felt the culture was on the ballot. Where four years ago the election was a historic campaign, the 2012 presidential contest became a holy mission. Judging by the social media chatter, many Blacks are still on the defensive, reacting to the endless number of insults being hurled at the President of the United States and seen as indicative of a nation that can’t get to post-racial because it is still stuck in past-racial. However, the conflicting emotions being felt by African-Americans has the potential to distract the community from the important work that must be done to fully engage the federal policy process to make certain critical needs are being met and new opportunities created for economic mobility.
There is important work that must be done and it can’t wait until after the Inauguration in January. In the coming weeks the President and congressional leaders must hash out a plan to deal with the nation’s deficit. President Obama has already made clear his intention to let the Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans to expire and to extend tax cuts for middle class Americans. House and Senate Republicans have already signaled their reluctance to agree to the President’s approach, although Speaker John Boehner appears to have left himself some wiggle room. Over in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose caucus lost ground on Election Day, seems more recalcitrant and wed to his position. Meanwhile, public opinion polls have consistently noted strong approval of President Obama’s call for a balanced approach to deficit reduction – a mixture of spending cuts and the restoration of fairness in the tax code.
The President and the public that supports him cannot get stuck in this moment. Elections do have consequences and one reality is that the losing side doesn’t get to call the shots. Yes, compromise is an important aspect of our system of democratic governance but we cannot and should not compromise on our principles. The Republican leadership has made clear its priority is protecting the rich and powerful at the expense of the majority of Americans. The GOP has determined that wealth is the defining characteristic of citizenship and those without it have no standing. Mind you, they have pursued this course despite the fact it harms many of their own constituents. It is a perversion of their role as elected representatives and exposes just how deeply money has corrupted our system of government.
It is why the current battle must be engaged by African-Americans, and not simply from the perspective of falling off a fiscal cliff, but from how the principle of equity and fairness serves as the foundation for many of the policy initiatives we would like to see implemented during the second Obama term. After all, we have been on the edge of the cliff since our nation’s founding and some of us have fell over and still survived. We must get involved in the current debate because it sets the stage for all the debates to come over the next four years. How we budget and pay our bills has a real consequence for the government’s ability to help lift Americans out of poverty, stabilize the middle class, support our children and create opportunities for our young people, and protect senior citizens. If our policy priorities are not reflected in the federal budget, it is just empty rhetoric.
How can you make your voice heard? Write, call or e-mail your member of Congress and let them know you support the President’s deficit reduction plan. You can also write, call or e-mail the congressional Republican leadership, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and make it clear that you support the President. Finally, you can call national organizations such as the NAACP and the National Urban League to determine if they have any plans to mobilize collective action behind the President. Our days of sitting on the sideline when important discussions about federal spending priorities are taking place are over. We have a higher responsibility to get involved given our impressive turnout this election. We have learned how quickly four years can pass so we must move quickly to make our voices heard and our presence felt.