Lost in the election's afterglow for Democrats and deep funk of Republicans is the hard work to be done and how the president's success -- which, by definition, is the country's success -- depends on how many of us will have the president's back for the next four years.
President Obama referred to this point in his historic election night speech when he said: "So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other."
He then added: "The role of citizen in our democracy does not end with your vote. America's never been about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us, together."
This is the message every American needs to consider, to face the truth that, prior to the election -- over the last four years -- citizens, Democrats included, didn't always have this president's back. There are reasons. The recession, people trying to survive. Ideology. Misinformation. Disagreement. There was also a strange abdication, the sense by some who voted for him that now he can make change.
It doesn't work that way.
Strong headwinds are ahead. From other countries. From ideologues in this country who refuse to see themselves as part of a representative democracy under this president. There will be compromise with conservatives to pass legislation that will, likely, infuriate the president's base. There is (already) climate change that costs lives and treasure and requires us to help our neighbors like never before.
If we're to see prosperity return, the planet turned toward healing, the broken government fixed, we cannot turn away from our responsibility as citizens this time. We must actively support the president where legislation makes sense to us. We must let him know how we feel if it doesn't.
We must stay engaged in the process.
For those who say, "It's his job now," they'd do better to remember he works for us. We're the board of directors, the investors in our democracy. We're the team owners. We didn't hire a daddy or a boss. That's what Romney tried to offer. We hired a coach, someone who expects us to root for the team, to make a basket, to run defense -- to participate. We're the ultimate arbiter of our own outcome with our vote and with our civic engagement. This was proved by last week's election when our democratic spirit triumphed over billions of oil dollars. That spirit mustn't be put in the drawer until the next election cycle. There is legislation that must be passed now, appointments that must be approved, and a next election in 2014 which means that effort starts now.
It starts with calling your representative and your senators every time legislation is proposed, every time a new judge or official up for appointment, anytime anything may be blocked as a political tool.
To paraphrase the president, the question everyone has for him is what will he do over the next four years. The question we must ask instead is what will we do to help him this time.
That's what President Obama has been asking of us since January 20, 2008. He respects the process too much to see himself as standing alone on the ship of state. You hear it in every one of his speeches. President Obama believes in the participatory process of government. To get laws through he requires our participation in the process. It's up to us.