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Election Day 2012: What Did Really It Mean

November 8, 2012 1 comment

Barack Obama has won! But Election Day 2012What does it really mean? While we are very focused on the fact that President Obama will remain in the White House for another four years, the Election Day results are full of complicated victories and valuable lessons.

It would be so easy to take Election Day at face value. I would argue it would be dangerous to do so. Barack Obama’s victory in the Electoral College will look like a landslide, but an examination of the popular vote indicates a much closer race. Further, the results also show a very polarized nation. The Obama campaign is a study of modern political science and demography. They understood what groups constituted their base, and then they pursued them relentlessly. One group that didn’t fall into the Obama base in large numbers was white men who didn’t work in the auto industry. Married white women also were not big supporters of Obama in 2012. They are angry, and the rest of the country should take some time to try to figure out why.

As America’s first Black president anticipates his second term, this nation must confront its resurgent comfort with racism and negative racial imagery and rhetoric. As a candidate, Mitt Romney had the opportunity to repudiate the nasty and unnecessarily inflammatory racial and racist rhetoric spewed by his campaign surrogates. But Romney looked the other way as John Sununu, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump took to social media and traditional media in a game of racist one-upmanship with each other. Hopefully, these three men will jump back into the clown car and drive away.

The role of the Latino community will take on mythic proportions as the story of the 2012 Elections will be retold…and rightfully so. After being discussed in a manner that was either dismissive or disgusting during the GOP primaries with talk of “self-deportation” or electrified fences, the Latino community was waiting for someone to say something reasonable. The executive order around the DREAM kids was policy change that the Latino community could believe in. Comprehensive immigration reform is overdue. Let’s hope everyone in Washington is finally gets it.

The LGBT community also knew it had a friend in President Obama, despite earlier frustration with him. President Obama repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that institutionalized keeping active duty military personnel in the closet. Conversely, a deployed soldier was booed during a GOP debate for asking a question. But the LGBT community and the world knew President Obama has the inclusive spirit of equality and justice contemplated when we say “We the People” when he expressed his personal support for marriage equality. Marriage equality initiatives fared well in states…maybe President Obama helped change some minds.

Women make up over 50% of the registered electorate. The first official act that President Barack Obama did in 2009 was to sign the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier to sue based on gender discrimination. So Barack Obama hit the ground running where women are concerned and never stopped. The GOP presented themselves as the perfect foil to Obama, especially in the past two years. There were some, including me, who thought that this year was going to become the Year of the Woman. Sandra Fluke was called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh. Mitt Romney offered some lukewarm response and Barack Obama called Ms. Fluke personally to offer support. There are myriad compelling and complicated cross currents involved in the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which included attacks on privacy and access to birth control. The landmark legislation of the first term of Obama Administration, Obamacare, is extremely beneficial to women, whether it is for our own care, the care of a child, or the care of an aging, sick parent. The Affordable Care Act is now safe from threats to “repeal and replace.”

The election of 2012 is noteworthy for women because it is the year that we rejected efforts to destroy progress and go back to a time when women had little control over our bodies and our earning potential. Throughout the country there were candidates for the House of Representatives and US Senate who expressed extreme views that would have endangered the physical and economic lives of women. Those candidates LOST! The idea that in 2012 there was a debate about the definition of rape is offensive and shocking. Let’s clear it up once and for all: rape is rape because no means no. The law is clear about abortion, but the procedure should be available since it legal. The law is settled, let’s move on. I think equal pay is one area where we could focus our energy instead. The fact that the Violence Against Women Act remains in limbo is also unacceptable. But there are 20 women in the US Senate now, a record. Let’s hope that makes a difference and we can focus on issues that really matter to women and the nation.

President Obama will probably have the opportunity to appoint another Supreme Court justice. It would be amazing to see the first Black woman take her place in the highest court in the land. But there are many other firsts that could be achieved…first Asian-American, first Native-American, first open LGBT justice…there is need for diversity on the bench and President Obama is the person to achieve that goal.

The Obama campaign probably knew whether you preferred Coke, Pepsi or 7-Up. But the one thing they didn’t know was whether you would be subject to voter suppression or voter intimidation. This trend toward shaping the outcome of the election by controlling who can access the polls must stop. All of America benefitted from the fact that the efforts in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states were not successful. The people who would have been disproportionately impacted would have been the elderly and college students. The folks who invested the country and to whom we owe a debt on one end, and on the other end, we have the generation we are trying to teach the value of civic engagement and instill the habit of voting…these are the targets of the GOP campaign of voter suppression. It is shameful. It is ironic because we recently discovered that a GOP operative has allegedly engaged in voter registration fraud and that the GOP allegedly knew about it. There is such hope for our country because groups like the NAACP, the ACLU and the Advancement Project successfully fought these voter ID laws and state officials. Here’s what was amazing, voters were energized by the obstacles, not discouraged. It didn’t matter what they need to get to vote, they were going to vote. We need to remember that every Election Day and have the same passion and commitment.

Voters waited on line for hours to vote due to reduced early voting hours in Florida. Requests to expand hours in light of the long lines were denied.

Passion and commitment… In the final analysis, that was what made the difference. This election was the most expensive election in American history on the federal, state and local levels. At the top of the ticket, almost $2 billion was spent in pursuit of the White House, with the Romney campaign spending over $1 billion. This campaign was the first presidential campaign is the post-Citizens United world. The big money interests didn’t disappoint. They dumped money into the Romney campaign as though they thought they were buying the very best seats at the opera… Maybe they were. But all the money the world can’t buy passion and commitment. As Election Day drew closer, television ads lost their effectiveness, but passion and commitment motivated tens of thousands of volunteers who fanned out across the country to phone bank, knock on doors, and show up at rallies to support President Obama. Negative ads might move the news cycle, but a Get Out the Vote strategy moves voters.

Barack Obama won. This is great news for the country…all of the country. There are some folks who would have you believe that this is only good news for the people who want free stuff. Absurd. It’s time for the country to unite behind this president…for real this time. No clandestine dinners on Inauguration Night, please…

The “Fiscal Cliff” and potential sequestration loom on the horizon if all of us don’t get our act together and move forward. The time for fighting is over. The time for unity has arrived. This is the United States of America, and we have just re-elected our president. You may not respect the man, but respect the office.

Election Day 2012…What does it mean? It means that we have to realize that the country is changing is some wonderful ways…we embraced our better angels. But after some brief rest, it is time to get back to the work of restoring the nation economically, recovering from Hurricane Sandy, fixing big issues like immigration, the tax code, education and climate change and setting the course for a secure future.

On another day, there will be an autopsy on the Romney campaign, but not today. Today it is sufficient to say that President Obama won. GOP must do some soul-searching about its tactics and its lowest common denominator assumptions about the country.

We all voted. President Obama has reached 332 Electoral College votes. Now we must shift gears, and return to the work governing.

Let’s do what Americans do…Thrive.

All Rights Reserved

Kimberly S. Jones

2012

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The Joke Is On Us

July 22, 2010 6 comments

And it is a bad joke.  When I refer to a bad joke, I am being somewhat ironic about Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s apology to Shirley Sherrod. I wanted to write laughingly about the stupidity of celebrity and how the famous are going to jail this week – Lindsey Lohan and Wesley Snipes, but it is not to be this week.  I must be serious and turn to the Shirley Sherrod situation. In case you have been far, far away or in a coma, Shirley Sherrod is a former USDA official in the state of Georgia.  Ms. Sherrod told a story several months ago at an NAACP conference in Georgia about an encounter she had 24 years ago with a white farmer who came to her seeking her help.  Ms. Sherrod told the story about the farmer’s “superior” attitude.  But she also spoke of her realization that it wasn’t a matter of black or white, but of haves and have-nots.  She went on to help this farmer who is still on his farm today and considers Ms. Sherrod a friend.  But out of fear of ending up on Glenn Beck’s Fox News program, officials at the USDA pressured Ms. Sherrod, over three phone calls, to pull over to the side of the road so she could “resign” via Blackberry.  Not to be outdone, the NAACP quickly condemned Ms. Sherrod.  Here’s the problem, no one involved in the forced resignations or the condemnations took the time to listen to the whole speech and put the remarks in context.  So today, everyone is falling all over themselves to apologize and blame Fox News and other extreme right-wing commentators.  Yes, it’s a bad joke.

It’s a joke for the Obama Administration to offer an apology after they jumped on the train to “Rush to Judgment.”  It is too late for the NAACP and for the Obama Administration – and yes, it is also too late for Shirley Sherrod.  The hatchet job done on this woman is disgusting, but is also faintly familiar.  Anyone else recognize it?  It looks like the mauling of Van Jones.  Van Jones, as a young man with world-wide recognition, can, and has, come back from the high-tech lynching that was done to him.  Shirley Sherrod wasn’t a superstar, just a woman with a lifetime of committed hard work.  She should be contemplating retirement, on her own terms and in her own time, not a forced resignation.  As with Van Jones, the hatchet job done to Ms. Sherrod was enabled by the Obama Administration.  An apology is woefully inadequate in this situation, and is in fact, a joke.

But Secretary Vilsack and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ apologies were so badly timed and poorly delivered that, like all bad jokes, they fell flat.  I cannot offer a justification for the Obama Administration that passes a personal “straight face” test, so I won’t even bother.  But there will be a price to pay within the Black Community for the times that the Obama Administration has willfully turned its back on Black members of the Obama Administration and thrown them to the media wolves to appease the rabid Right-Wing.  Has Barack Obama made the classic Democratic mistake and taken the Black Community for granted?  It is a mistake that I wouldn’t advise making.

Speaking of jokes, the NAACP does itself tremendous harm in this whole sordid affair.  In its second century of existence, the NAACP made a stab at relevance last week by condemning “racist elements” in the TEA Party Movement.  It was the sort of bold move of leadership that made the NAACP an organization that used to be worthy of respect.  And hope for the NAACP created by their justifiable action against those in the TEA Party Movement who use the fear of many Americans during these uncertain times as a justification for racism was dashed completely by the actions of the NAACP this week.   The NAACP has assisted in the high-tech lynching of Ms. Sherrod, which is one of the parts of this whole situation that makes it that much more tragic.  A question that we must ask the NAACP, regardless of one’s race, is what its role is in the 21st Century?  Is the NAACP beyond irrelevant?  In its quest for relevance, has it become a danger to the community it is supposed to serve?

There is a special aspect of this affair that has caught my eye.  There is misogyny in the Black Community, the details and permutations of which I won’t go into here, but I don’t doubt it exists.  And the mainstream media loves to demonize Black women as well.  Who can forget the welfare queens of the Reagan Era?  Forget the facts; it was a better story to generate the concept of the Black welfare queen than to examine the facts.  The story created was so compelling that even Black folks started to buy into the “Welfare Queen” fiction.  Since the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement were women like the late Dorothy Height, the NAACP owes Black women a special debt.  Although we are capable of fighting for ourselves, Black women now have to anticipate attack from Black institutions that won’t take the time to find out the facts and fight with us?  And Barack Obama, as a man with two lovely and smart Black daughters, should be horrified to see how America handled Ms. Sherrod.  I hope that Barack Obama will personally apologize for actions done in his name against an innocent Black woman.

For me, this story has added significance.  My family received land grants during Reconstruction – 40 acres and a mule.  The family has its share of efforts from whites who tried to steal or cheat my family out of this land.  Let’s not forget about the countless Black farmers who were cheated out of their land over the decades.  It is still happening, and not just on farms but in urban areas facing re-gentrification pressures.  I am glad that there was, at least for a time, a Black woman who helped everyone keep land that had been in the family for generations.  In Oakland, Fort Greene, Harlem, San Francisco and countless other cities, where is the outrage for everyone who is losing their homes to foreclosure.  But that is a topic for another day.

Here is the real joke.  Many of us bought into the fiction that we had moved to a post-racial America with the election of Barack Obama.  But in this allegedly post-racial time, we find an elevation, not a deflation, of racial conflicts, confrontations and misunderstandings.  It’s ironic to me that the first Black president doesn’t exemplify this post-racial ideal, instead he allowed his Administration to take out a real example of what the post-racial America should look like. There’s nothing funny about what happened to Shirley Sherrod.  No apology will restore her reputation fully or compensate her for the distress of the past several days.  But it is a joke; to me at least, that anyone is surprised that this happened at all.  And the vast Right-Wing conspiracy that Hillary Clinton used to tell us about – it’s a reverse of Santa Claus – it IS real.