Casting my vote for Obama brought pride and the hope that an Obama administration would alter some of the horrific things that were happening to people of all races. I remember that morning in 2008 when I pushed the button beside his name. I closed my eyes and said, “This is for you, Mother and Dad.” My parents are not around to vote for a Black president; that was not even a figment of their imaginations, back in the day. I wondered how long we would have to savor this victory. My hope was that we would find a way to preserve this new tone and new sense of togetherness. I had no idea that on the evening of the president’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009, some Republicans were meeting to plan his demise; an effort pursued over most of his first term in office. They were determined that he not succeed. While President Obama had some major accomplishments, he had more than his share of setbacks. I believe many opposed him, not because of his policies, but because of distain for his not looking like those who have traditionally been in power. Many believed then, as they believe today, that the house built by slaves should not be occupied by a descendant of a slave.
As I reflect on the challenges Obama faced during his first term, my thoughts go to the many crude and disrespectful comments directed at him, such as “You lied,” “He is dumb,” “He is un-American,” and “He does not understand America” How often did we hear questioning about where he was born? We understood what was meant by the cries of “Take back our country.” Clearly there was a coordinated agenda, in keeping with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s vow to make Obama a one-term president. . Even some of my white friends agreed that there were those determined to deny Obama four more years in office. As I stood in line to vote, I thought of 2008 as historic, but the shenanigans of the opposition in this election were viewed as personal. I recalled what my parents told me about the mood after Joe Louis lost to Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium on June 19, 1936. My father said the trolley ride to work the next morning was in “dead silence” with some people in tears.
On the evening of Election Day, I sat in front of the television; in the same chair as four years ago, to await the results. The first national polling places closed at 7 p.m. My closest friend called with clear concern in his voice, saying, “Kittrels, I have a bad feeling.” He told me he was so concerned that he was going to turn off his television and get in bed. Within an hour he confessed that not only was he still in bed, but he was doing something that was truly back-in-the-day behavior typical of children when they were afraid: He was under the covers with his head buried under his pillow.
I had thought there would be early results from Virginia that would signal a clear indication of how the evening would go., but the initial results did not seem promising. Even though it was early, I must admit I had“butterflies in my stomach.
I suspect a number of Obama supporters had concerns about the outcome of the election on Tuesday night. We knew that much of the opposition to him had little to do with issues or his policies. Let’s face it; the racial hatred in this country caused many people to oppose the president simply because of the color of his skin. In fact, the sheer number of white males opposing him was a major reason for my concern. There was more concern as I learned that some companies threatened their employees with loss of their jobs if they supported the president. The boys on Fox, in particular, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, as well as other Obama haters like Donald Trump and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu were hard at work attempting to defeat Obama. There were questions whether the president’s base was coming out to vote. Then there was the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that placed large sums in the Romney camp. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone, Texas industrialist Harold Simmons, Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts, a Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, industrialists Charles and David Koch, Karl Rove of American Crossroads and others had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat the president. Many people thought that money would buy this election. Thus, there was every reason for jitters. So, I waited and waited as the results came in, hoping the end result would be what we ultimately saw, the flushing of millions of dollars down the toilet with no tangible results. While it was difficult to identify exactly what Mitt Romney stood for, it was crystal clear what he was against, and life under a President Romney would have meant returning to the way of life our ancestors fought to end, back in the day.
Several hours passed and it was apparent from the election results that minorities had delivered; Blacks, Latinos, women and Asians. It was also apparent that the electorate in America was changing and whites are becoming the minority in terms of voting power in a number of states. At the same time, the importance of white support for President Obama could not be ignored. For him to have performed as he did and eventually win meant there were lots of good white folk who helped to give him a second term. But there are clear signals that things have changed, and our re-elected president must address a laundry list of issues that were highlighted during the campaign. We will hear more about them over the next several months; issues such as the fiscal cliff; tax fairness; the debt ceiling; immigration; assault weapons; global warming; protection of women’s rights; Iran and other Middle East issues; the housing bubble; future Supreme Court appointments; alternative energy sources and campaign financing. Then there is the issue that became extremely troubling during this election; voter suppression. It was disconcerting to observe the long lines of people waiting to vote in Florida. The attempt to require Pennsylvania residents to show voter identification brought back painful memories, causing me to wonder what might have happened if implementing this law had prevailed. Is this the best we can do in a country with our greatness? Will we return to practices that existed back in the day? As President Obama stated, “We have to fix this.”
While none of us know what will happen over the next four years, I am more optimistic in terms of Obama’s ability to move forward with an aggressive agenda; more optimistic than in his first term. After all, he has four years of experience. He can now be more focused; he is wiser; he has the majority of the country on his side, as evidenced by his election mandate. His re-election clearly indicates that his first election was no fluke. One of his major initiatives, the Affordable Care Act, will start to bear fruit. Furthermore, he no longer will he be faced with the pressures associated with re-election. I trust also that he better knows the crew with whom he must interact. I believe that he will relax his coolness, be more willing to “let the brother come out of him” and let everyone know he is in charge. As he told John McCain after the 2008 election, “The election is over and I am the president.” While he should be respectful and diplomatic, he cannot continue to be Mr. Nice Guy. So, I congratulate Barack Hussein Obama for his victory and thank him for running a superior election campaign. His success enabled people like me to maintain their dignity. I urge him to move forward aggressively, use his political clout and make these next four years so productive and memorable that we will regard them in the future as the beginning of our golden years; years that started with his second term, which we will at some time in the future refer to as “back in the day.”