The Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, was quoted by the National Journal recently as declaring: “The single most important thing want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
This, to me, is a misguided priority. As the elected public servants of the American people, our challenge and our duty to our country are far more compelling than the temporary gains of any person or political party.
In the General Election this month, Marylanders stood tall in our support for President Obama, his Democratic vision for this country, and the president’s allies here in the Free State. Viewed in the context of Republican gains in many other states, the scope of these Maryland victories was both breathtaking and humbling.
Maryland’s Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley won a 236,000 vote landslide. Our senior Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski trounced the Republican candidate by 438,000 votes.
All but one of Maryland’s House Democrats received renewed mandates to work for constructive, progressive policies that will help our people with the challenges that are central to our daily lives – and I was honored by a nearly 100,000 vote victory in Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District.
As I reflect on these election results, I am reminded, in very human terms, that we here in Maryland are all workers in an historic movement – not just participants in a series of political campaigns.
The 143,000 neighbors who voted for me are young and not-so-young. Our ethnicity is White, yellow and brown – as well as Black.
We live in Maryland’s poorest neighborhoods and our most affluent, in million dollar homes and rented rooms, senior centers and college dormitories.
Those who took the time to talk with me in the last few months expressed their highest aspirations and deepest fears. They want America to succeed – and to be part of that success – as do I.
Reflecting on these votes of trust, I could never willingly compromise our future for someone else’s ideology or greed, whether this pledge leads to future electoral victories or defeat. This, I believe, is how the relationship between the people and their public servants should be fashioned in a democratic republic.
President Obama shares these same feelings of loyalty, determination and urgency. At the same time, however, we both understand that we must work with Republican leaders when we can.
The challenges that our nation must confront and overcome are too monumental to do otherwise.
We must work together to help more Americans get back to work. We also must do all that we can to encourage the American businesses that are creating the next wave of sustainable energy solutions that will free us from foreign oil.
We must assure that our public schools and universities serve every single American, making certain that all of us have the skills and knowledge to compete in an increasingly complex world.
We must move forward toward universal access to affordable healthcare – and continue to support the medical research that will defeat the deadly threats that now plague our communities.
We must care for those who have cared for us in our youth – and on our nation’s battlefields.
We must not waiver in our commitment to home ownership, continuing to fight foreclosures and predatory lending with all of our strength.
We must find the political will to protect our natural heritage and our precious Chesapeake Bay.
We must reform our immigration policies to better protect our borders, while still embracing the American “melting pot” that is a source of much that is great about our country.
We must defeat those who would resort to terror for their own ends, while continuing to embrace the rest of humanity.
In all of these objectives, we Democrats must work with the Republicans, as difficult as these cooperative efforts may be – so I will respectfully respond to the Senate’s Republican leader in this way.
Sen. McConnell, rather than wishing for our president’s failure and defeat, you may want to consider a different priority, one that could better serve our shared responsibility.
Unlike elections, our duty to improve the daily lives of those we serve need not be – and should not be – a “zero sum game” in which one American’s loss is another American’s gain.
It will be two more years until the American people next vote on our sense of political priorities. Considering the serious challenges that our nation must address now, shouldn’t we all be rooting for our president’s success?
Senator, with all due respect, shouldn’t all Americans begin rooting for the home team?
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.