January is a month when Maryland families pause to reflect on the year just past – and make our plans for the months ahead.

The Year 2010 was a year that evoked in me gratitude, a sense of accomplishment, and a renewed determination to carry on.

I am both grateful and humbled by the faith that my neighbors once again invested in me on Election Day. Despite our opponents’ attacks and their dirty tricks, our community once again rose to the challenge.

As a result, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Gov. Martin O’Malley, our other Democratic colleagues in Annapolis and all but one of our Democratic congressional delegation received a renewed mandate to fight for the more prosperous and equitable America symbolized by the pledge, “liberty and justice for all.”

It is in this spirit that we must regroup and move forward, notwithstanding the electoral gains that the forces of wealth, reaction and power achieved in 2010.

With Republican control of the House of Representatives and a weakened Democratic majority in the Senate, President Obama’s already daunting task of rebuilding America has become far more difficult.

To acknowledge this reality, however, is not to accept defeat. One victory does not a mandate make – nor one defeat a movement break.

It is critical that we hold on to this shared vision of a better country because we are in for a series of tough battles during the next two years.

The Republican leadership in Washington has made it clear that their top objective is to deny President Obama a second term in 2012.

They have pledged to cut $100 billion each year from the social programs that are keeping millions of American above water during this long economic storm – and they are determined to harass the administration through unending subpoenas and political spin.

These assertions amount to a battle cry against all that is progressive, not a pledge of bipartisan debate and action for the benefit of our country.

We are in a fight. Yet, we stand on firm ground.

The Democratically-led 110th Congress just concluded has been called the “most productive Congress in 50 years.”

We provided a path to more affordable health insurance for more than 30 million Americans and invested in a stronger national system of community health care. We strengthened federal regulation of Wall Street and the credit card industry for the first time in decades.

We took actions – including the Recovery Act – that protected our nation from a second Great Depression. We helped to ensure that women will be paid as much as their male counterparts.

We helped to protect state governments from bankruptcy – and teachers from unemployment.

We stood against the tobacco lobby, fought for child nutrition and demanded greater food safety.

We reduced the threat of life-ending nuclear attack, made a down payment on our debt to our veterans and ended the discrimination inherent in “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

All of these advances (and more) are what our opponents hope to destroy when they scream that they are going to “take their country back” and deny a second term to the most successful president of our time.

Well, this is our country as well – and I, for one, will fight to make it better for everyone.

I do not minimize the power that we face.

Billionaires like the Koch brothers are dumping millions into a concerted effort to defeat our President and the progressive movement he leads. A slim majority of the Supreme Court has decreed that corporations can use their profits to buy elections and protect their privileges.

Against these forces, we have only our vision, determination and organization.
Still, history informs us that, sometimes, this can be enough.

We know that ours is the same dream that uplifted the working women of New England cotton mills, the coal miners and factory workers in their struggles against the company store, and the civil rights workers of the 1960s.

Ours is the same challenge as those heroes and heroines of our past who risked everything for “liberty and justice for all.”

We are a movement, and not just another political campaign. We fight not just for ourselves, but for our children and for the generations yet to be born.
Once more, into the breach . . . .

Congressman Elijah E. Cummings represents Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.