Four years ago, the nation paused as we watched historic numbers of Americans standing in line for hours to cast their vote in the presidential election. And yesterday, we witnessed another remarkable repeat of democracy in action as citizens overcame voter suppression tactics, and personal challenges to ensure that they participated in the process and let their voices be heard. Even as the results were being tallied and announced on air, people in many states remained in line determined to vote. It was an affirmation of the power of individuals and the direction we want this country to go. Yesterday, we re-elected an African-American president to office; we chose to move forward.
Throughout President Obama’s four years in office, he has faced unimaginable opposition from those who were less concerned about the welfare of the nation, and instead more interested in watching our Commander-in-Chief fail. And unfortunately, during the campaign, the president endured unparalleled rancor and acrimony from others, but faced it with impeccable grace and coolness. Dealing with all kinds of innuendos, and personal insults, he never once stooped to the ugliness. Even as some questioned his citizenship, his birth rights and his legitimacy, the president demonstrated grace and leadership for the world to emulate. There’s no question that the voting public took notice.
The 2012 election — on both a national and local level — was about one fundamental underlying notion: the direction we want this country to move. At a time when civil rights, women’s rights and gay/lesbian rights were so heavily under attack, Americans fought back at the ballot, and in courtrooms in many cases. After observing voter suppression tactics like new draconian ID laws, and the elimination of early voting days in places like Ohio and Florida (which also reduced the Church’s efforts to get souls to the polls), people rose up to reclaim their fundamental constitutional rights. Folks like Bishop Victor T. Curry of the New Birth Baptist Church in Florida (and President of National Action Network’s Miami-Dade chapter) organized a tremendous early voting drive called ‘Operation Lemonade.’ All around the country, we turned pain to power, and made lemonade out of lemons, as we pushed back against voter ID laws, conducted massive voter rallies, registered people to vote, went to court in some cases to challenge voter suppression efforts and watched yesterday as we made history yet again.
From every corner of this nation, a majority sent a resounding message that we will not tolerate a rollback of our liberties, nor will we sit by idly as the rights so many fought and died for were under attack. Yesterday was a people’s movement where the majority defeated attacks against women, same-sex marriage and said yes to equality, voter enfranchisement and inclusion. Those that made outlandish statements against women’s rights like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were overwhelmingly defeated. Democrats didn’t just keep a majority in the Senate, they gained seats, and gay marriage scored wins in four states. I remember standing with Pastor Delmon Coates of the Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Maryland as he called on people to support a marriage equality referendum. He and members of his clergy stood their ground in the face of opposition and helped lead to triumph as marriage equality passed in the state of Maryland yesterday.
There’s no question that the 2012 election was a monumental victory for this president and for all those that fought tirelessly on the side of progress. But we must take this victory and make certain that it is not an election night victory, but a victory instead for the American people to continue moving forward. The president must deal with the deficit without adding burden on the backs of the middle-class and seniors, and without giving immunity to the wealthy. The rich must pay their part, and programs created to benefit the middle-class and underprivileged must be maintained; we must move ahead responsibly and without undue pressure on those that can handle the least.
Many forecasted complacency for the presidential election, but we all observed the tremendous turnout — in some places more than in 2008. Areas like Wisconsin ran out of ballots, and people remained in line for hours even as the race was being called for the president. A record number of Latinos and Asian-Americans voted for President Obama, and African-Americans, young people and seniors pushed back against disenfranchisement and proved the doubters wrong. As a beacon of democracy in the world, the United States conducted another historic election where the support for equality and justice was evident yesterday as it ever was before.
Yes, we did this.