As Americans consider our choices in this presidential election year, President Obama and his progressive vision have been under constant attack by those who want (as they are quick to proclaim) to “take America back.” However, when the anti-Obama factions are asked, “Back to when?” their answers are less than clear.
Recently, an analyst whom I respect, Ezra Klein, published an essay in the Washington Post entitled, “With a second term go Obama’s accomplishments.” I found Mr. Klein’s essay valuable for many reasons – including his summary of all that our nation’s first African-American president has accomplished during his first three years in office.
Do the president’s enemies really want to “take America back” before this nation’s first foray into almost-universal health care – legislation that will save thousands upon thousands of American lives?
Most of the President’s opponents say that they do – just as they would like to repeal the Dodd-Frank legislation that begins to demand truth of Wall Street and provide greater financial protection to the American people.
Do President Obama’s opponents want to take us back before the stimulus bill that (most economists agree) saved or created millions of jobs – or before the 2010 tax compromise that preserved the full faith and credit of the United States and is reducing the taxes taken out of our payroll checks today?
Should we go back in time before we had a president who speaks softly in international affairs but is willing, when our security is at stake, to wield that big stick that eliminated Osama bin-Laden from the rogue’s gallery of America’s enemies?
Would America be better off without the wisdom of Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan? Do we truly want a rerun of the Iraq War? We have heard the Republicans’ answers to all of these questions – although far less about what they would do to make this nation a better place in the years ahead.
For me, and for millions of other Americans who are deeply involved in these fundamental debates, President Obama has the better answers and the more optimistic and practical vision for our future.
Consider the federal budget – and its impact on African-American families. In his budget message to the Congress earlier this month, President Obama reaffirmed a theme that he has been highlighting throughout his presidency. “We are at a critical moment for America’s middle class and all those families fighting to get there,” the president quite correctly observed. “Developing an economy that’s built to last means securing our industries that have traditionally provided pathways to upward mobility, and in doing so, providing security for African-American families.”
“By focusing on American innovation and manufacturing, skills and education for American workers, and clean energy,” he continued, “the 2013 budget is a blueprint for how we can rebuild an economy tattered by poor economic practices and restore the ideal of rewarding responsibility and hard work.”
Now, as one might expect, the president and I, along with other members of the Congress, may well have some differences to resolve about the details of how best to support America’s Black communities. However, there is no doubt in my mind, that Barack Obama understands the economic challenges that we face. He is determined to help us in our struggles to survive and grow.
Among other important initiatives, the president’s proposed 2013 budget would strengthen this nation’s anti-discrimination enforcement, expand access to higher education for minority students, and provide greater support for minority businesses.
It also would spur job creation in our communities through federal investment in our basic infrastructure and improvements to our schools.
In our neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by the economic fluctuations of recent years, the president is committed to preserving affordable rental opportunities, extending and expanding tax cuts for lower-income families, continuing hunger and nutrition programs and supporting our national effort to assist ex-offenders in their re-entry into mainstream society.
It is heart-warming that the president of the United States looks like us. What is more important, however, is that he cares about us and has some very good ideas that he wants to pursue for our country.
In contrast, the president’s Republican opponents don’t want simply to defeat Barack Obama in his bid for re-election. They want to blackout his name and erase his accomplishments from American history. We cannot allow that to happen. We have an important stake in President Obama’s fate on Election Day 2012. Today, and in the months to come, we must act to protect the progress that we have made.
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.