Presidential Politics: What’s at Stake

Black Enterprise Chairman and Publisher Earl G. Graves Sr. and Black Enterprise Editor-in-Chief Derek T. Dingle interviewing President Barack Obama in the White House's Oval Office.

In a few short months on Tuesday, Nov. 6 , 2012, Americans will head to the polls to elect the leader of our nation for the next four years. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, our choice will be between presumed Republican nominee, former Gov. Mitt Romney, and the defacto Democratic nominee, incumbent President of the United States Barack Obama.

Unlike the 2008 presidential election, the history-making novelty of a black candidate earning the nomination of one of the two major parties is not a major factor of this year’s race. This election is not about getting—or in this case, keeping—a black man in the White House. In fact, this election goes beyond the cult of personality or the likability (or lack thereof) of either candidate. The 2012 presidential race represents more than a choice between two men. It’s a choice of two very different directions for the future of our nation. Our choice in November is not between personalities, but between performance and potential—between what President Obama has done and what Mitt Romney wants to do as our nation’s next president.

So let’s talk about President Obama’s performance. Many Americans, and especially most conservative Republicans, have a serious case of amnesia on this point, but the fact is, the president began his first term by accomplishing no less than the stabilization of a national economy teetering at the brink of a new depression. Ask yourself: What if the president had not acted to save our nation from economic disaster? How much higher would unemployment, at 8.2%  as of this writing, be? What if he did not fight for extensions of unemployment benefits? What if he hadn’t taken steps to give the domestic auto industry a chance to rebound? How many more jobs would have been lost, not just from the loss of our major auto makers, but due to the devastation of our nation’s auto suppliers? Here’s an indication of what was at stake for black business: 42% of the revenues of the be 100s, the nation’s largest black-owned businesses, are tied to the auto industry.

But the president’s track record, as measured against the goals he set as a candidate four years ago, are even more impressive, especially when you consider that much of it has been achieved despite the resistance of a Republican Party often in the thrall of an obstructionist Tea Party. President Obama promised to end the war in Iraq, shift the focus to Afghanistan, and bring our troops home as soon as possible. Done, done, and done. He said that he’d use his authority as commander in chief to hunt down and eliminate Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Done. And with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama has achieved something that eluded his predecessors of both parties—getting healthcare reform passed into law. And despite an ongoing GOP campaign to derail the legislation, even the most conservative of justices, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., sided with the president on the constitutionality of the act when it was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Romney has said that the first thing he will do as our nation’s next president is to work to undo healthcare reform—despite the fact that ACA is modeled after legislation he once trumpeted as one of his major accomplishments as governor of Massachusetts. And herein lies the major difference between him and President Obama. While the latter is running on a record of what he has done, the former runs on promises of what he will undo. Romney’s potential as president is uncertain, and is clouded by the fact that much of what he promises to do directly contradicts the positions and actions of his own political career.

I am very grateful that I got to witness the election of an African American president in my lifetime. But in the end, I voted for him and supported his candidacy in 2008 because I believed he was the best candidate for the job. What ultimately makes me proud is not President Obama’s personality—although he has earned my admiration and respect—but how he’s performed, how he’s led our country through difficult times. Our nation needs proven performance, not uncertain potential. It’s not the time to undo the progress made thus far, but to continue forward. President Obama is still the best candidate for the job.

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