Not one Democrat has consistently stood up and aggressively championed him, fought alongside him, openly honored, admired, or unabashedly supported him. Bill Clinton doesn’t break ranks, but he doesn’t bring the vintage Bill-dazzle when he speaks of the president and his lackluster demeanor is lost on no one. Hillary Clinton has already said she’s a one-termer no matter what happens come the election; she’s entitled to make her choices, but did she really have to announce them so early in the game—she, who is exceedingly clear on what the stakes are and how the game of presidential politics is played?
Condoleezza Rice used to actually beam whenever Bush was nearby. He was her guy and she wore it on her sleeve and her face. When’s the last time our current Secretary of State stood at the mic and championed her boss no less gushed like a teenaged groupie?
But, to be honest, I don’t expect much from politicians as they all serve multiple masters; the rest of us don’t have that excuse.
President Obama was elected by an enthusiastic, optimistic, relieved majority. Like my emailing friend Ann, in Oregon, most of us cried tears of joy when the last vote was counted; some of us still choke up every time he appears. But most of us also receded back into our lives after the election, dabbing our eyes as we waited for him to work miracles. And we knew it would take miracles—not only because there was a mighty contingent appalled that a Black man was president—but because the deck he was handed was stacked high against him, and against us all.
When he proved to be a mere mortal (although one could easily argue that he has held up rather well given the superhuman nature of a job that just keeps spiraling into territory unprecedented for its overwhelming challenges including from Mother Nature her mighty self) we went mute and let the liars, the haters, the extremists and opportunists take over. Do we blame him for that or do we blame ourselves?
President Obama is constantly criticized for the changes he promised that we don’t yet see. But his campaign for change clearly required that we all change; it required that we sacrifice and continue to stand with him once he was off the campaign trail and actually working to enact a new approach that he (and we) knew would be an uphill battle.
His change demanded that Americans maintain the optimism, interest, and level of engagement that led us to change ourselves enough to vote a Black man into the White House in the first place. But no sooner was he there than we changed back, tweeting our gripes, Facebooking our frustrations, bitching and moaning and doing almost nothing to help him move us forward.
As African Americans, once again, we have a vital role to play at a critical moment in history—and there’s not a moment to spare. In a twist on the president’s own line, this is not rocket science; it’s right. When it comes to opening the door to real change, he can turn the lock, but we hold the key.
To see my interview with Secretary of Labor Hilda Soliz on the president’s job creation proposal, watch the season premiere of Black Enterprise Business Report this weekend on TV One. Please check your local listings for times.