This week, BlackVoices is shining the spotlight on 12 people who are primed to make big waves in 2012.
What a difference four years makes.
When Barack Obama ascended to the presidency in 2008, his promises of hope and change electrified a broad coalition of voters, from those casting ballots for the first time to white and minority voters across the country, independents, traditional Democrats and the fed-up masses weary of the George W. Bush era.
He inherited two unpopular wars and a free-falling economy. His political enemies across the aisle vowed his undoing. And a vocal minority among black politicians and media personalities has lambasted him for his handling of abysmally low employment rates among African Americans, his most loyal base of voters.
His popularity tumbled from 70 percent during his first year to below 50 percent by 2010. His Republican adversaries rallied, delivering a political shellacking in the mid-term elections. They filibustered and led the federal government to the brink of a shutdown.
But with all the challenges, the president managed to score a string of victories, including the repeal of the military’s ban on gays, the passing of a health care bill that will eventually provide coverage for millions of uninsured families and children, and a $787 billion stimulus bill that proponents say staved off a total economic collapse. Osama bin Laden and Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi were both taken out on his watch. And he successfully led the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
But Republicans have vowed to make him a one-term president and continue to, according to Democratic officials, use a number of tactics to keep likely Obama voters from the polls. Republican legislature’s across the country have passed laws requiring government issued identification to vote, limited early voting and have made it tougher for third-party groups to registers new voters, all of which will likely affect minority voters, a key bloc for the president.
The president will have to channel the power and swagger he exuded as a presidential contender in 2008 to win what will likely be a tough election. (No president has ever won re-election with unemployment rates so high.) And he'll have to re-capture the hearts and imagination of an American electorate still reeling from a number of domestic crises.
If he can hit his stride and if he is elected again, few people on earth will wield such power. A second-term president, after all, has absolutely nothing to lose.