Let me be clear, the race for the 2012 presidency did not just begin. It began the day after Barack Obama was elected in November 2008.
At the prospect of electing not just the first African American President, but a candidate campaigning on the platform of change, we all, myself included, drank several glasses of a heavily sugar-laced kool-aid and worked our butts off to get him elected. But after all the inaugural celebrating was over our sugar high wore off while we complacently sat back and waited for our Super Obama to make it all happen. Our mantra went from “Yes we can” to “Yes we did” to “Yes we’re done”.
There was a brief honeymoon period, after his inauguration, when we hoped, dared dream, that there would be a return to sanity in the country after ten years of the Bush/Cheney regime. But sadly, rather than seize the moment, the Democratic Party failed to rally behind their standard bearer and missed the opportunity to get some significant work done.
Instead, in a very pathetic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the then Democratic majority sat back and did nothing in hopes of protecting seats that were lost anyway during the 2010 mid-term elections.
And look what we got. A republican led house committed more to working to make Barack Obama a one-term President than attending to the crisis facing the American people and our country. And so the games began with a series of actions including investigations and defunding and stalling parts of Obama’s legislative agenda.
What happened to that “Yes We Can” momentum? Perhaps on that jubilant November evening when Barack Obama won the presidency someone needed to remind us the work was not done. Channeling our best Bette Davis, we needed to hear a new message – “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!”
And it has been just that, a very bumpy ride. Promises were made that have not been fulfilled and yet achievements affecting the lives of all Americans – especially LGBTQ Americans were also realized. These achievements affected every aspect of our lives including recognition of our families – ensuring that hospitals participating in Medicare and Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors; Under the Family and Medical Leave Act clarifying the definition of “son and daughter” to ensure that an employee who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave regardless of the legal or biological relationship; and issuing a memorandum requiring Executive Branch agencies to provide an extensive package of benefits to the same gender domestic partners of federal LGBT employees.
Although many in the LGBTQ community have expressed disappointment that Obama didn’t immediately strike down DOMA, in 2011 he announced that he would no longer defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in court because he believes it to be unconstitutional.
LGBT people, who can still be fired in many states simply for being gay, looked for federal action on employment non-discrimination. The President implemented a policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in hiring practices across the entire Executive branch of government; has been proactively trying to fill federal positions with LGBT appointments; and is working with Congress to help pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act that will provide basic protections against discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
I’m not trying to make this an Obama Campaign speech, but come on – $132 million in grants to help state and local governments fight violence and bullying in schools; signing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) Repeal Act; signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA); a $900,000 grant to establish the first National Resource Center for LBGT Elders; and announcing a new policy to issue passports that reflect a person’s current gender when either a previous passport or other personal documentation presented by an applicant reflects a different gender – let’s give the president his due!
2012 looms ahead and our choices are becoming abundantly and terrifyingly clear. The Republican’s have given us a cast of characters whose collective intellect could not spell equality if they had a clue. Front-runners are clear – Bachman who in her own words says “Gays are a part of Satan;” Perry who feels the Lawrence vs. Texas decision was inappropriate; and Romney who battled legislatively against gay marriage.
Opposition to a second Obama term is not just coming from the right. Progressives, including African Americans Cornel West and Tavis Smiley are also calling for an alternative candidate to Obama. So you see it has been and is a very, very bumpy ride.
Time and the depth of the challenges facing our communities do not allow us the luxury of vacillation. Really!
We are talking about change, real change and change, well “it don’t come easy.” At the Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner President Obama summed it up best when he said “Each and every time we’ve made epic change – from this country’s founding to emancipation, to women’s suffrage, to workers’ rights – it has not come from a man. It has come from a plan.”
So what’s our plan? What are we going to do? Are we going to start all over again with flawed GOP clay. Are we going to start all over again with new untested clay? Or are we going to continue to mold the clay of promise we sent to Washington in 2008.
The clock is ticking and we’re behind in the game. If this new “Tea Party” influenced government at the federal and state level hasn’t been a wake-up call to us then it’s time for us to wake up and smell the coffee. Take a look around. It’s not getting better.
There is no time to casually sip the kool-aid. Let’s not wake up in November 2012 and wish we had done more. Take a stand. Get involved. Register to vote. VOTE!
Forget the kool-aid, it’s time to take the “blue pill” and get busy.