Are you in? It's the current battle cry of the 2012 version of the Obama Campaign, and though on its surface, it feels like a casual question, it's rife with deeper meaning three-and-a-half years after the historic election of President Barack Obama.
The question is an acknowledgement that a lot has changed in four years. The average Obama supporter is no longer in wide-eyed wonderment over the prospects of electing our first black president -- many of us are still grappling with the socio-economic ravages of Bush Administration policies, and confounded over what seems to be President Obama's commitment to adhering to some of the most unpopular of them. Whatever their race, many of the President's supporters find themselves disappointed in the wake of seemingly broken promises made during the 2008 election, and have been vocal about their belief that President Obama has given up too much in fights with Republicans these last few years.
Even a rabid Obama supporter like me can admit that there have been some disappointing moments this term. I question the wisdom, of expending vast amounts of political capital on waging a protracted healthcare reform fight. I understood the rationale then, and I understand it now -- tackle the sector of our economy that seems most intractable, and that is in the most danger of destroying our nation's ability to sustain a healthy economy and more importantly, a healthy citizenry for the future -- I get it. But waging that fight at a time when the country was literally hemorrhaging jobs that have been too slow to come back can't help but make even the President's biggest supporters wonder what he and his advisors were thinking.
So it's 2012, and even I, the original Black Woman for Obama have to ask myself the question: am I in? It's not just about will I vote for President Obama -- of course I will. The question for me and others like me is will I work myself into the ground again to ensure his re-election? Has he earned it?
In my opinion yes, and to illustrate why, I'll tell you a short tale. I call it, "The Tale of Two Shovels."
So, imagine there's a job -- everyone wants it. And to do this job, you have to be good at doing two things -- digging a hole, and filling it back up with dirt -- that's it. The thing is -- you have to dig this hole in such a way that the one that comes after you, can always either a) start the digging where you left off or b) begin to fill the hole where you left off. Simple, right?
Now imagine that you get this job -- from what you've heard, every one of your predecessors, from the beginning of time, has dug the hole, oh, maybe 5, six feet deep, and worked like crazy to fill it back in. So you know you're going to have to dig a little, or toss a little dirt in, and you're up for the task. But imagine your surprise, on your first day when (shovel in hand), you discover that the guy that had the job before you, has dug a hole 100 feet deep, and left it or you to fill. Oh -- and you have no idea where the dirt is. You still only have 5 feet worth of dirt to fill the hole in with.
In essence -- your predecessor has thrown his shovel down, and run back to his ranch in Texas, I mean, back to wherever he came from, leaving you to deal with the mega-hole. And now, not only are your co-workers pressuring you to fill in the hole, those folks who want the job after you are yelling for you to fill the hole. Everyone everywhere wants you to fill in the hole. Fill it in! Do it now! Yikes.
You try to reason with them -- "my predecessor dug a much bigger hole than he should have, a-and there's no more dirt with which to fill it kind people!", and they tell you to shut your trap! Enough about your predecessor, it's your hole now, and you have to find a way to fill it with dirt! Whiner!
Get the picture? President Obama took office at an historic time for America and the world; 700,000 plus jobs were exiting the economy each month; our auto industry was on the verge of collapse, and in danger of taking another one million jobs with it; the financial institutions in this country were disintegrating in the wake of too much greed and too little regulation and because of an expensive and unjust war in Iraq, our reputation around the world was in tatters -- when President Obama took the oath of office, he had been left with a very deep hole to fill indeed.
And yet -- here we are four years later, with an auto industry that's back on, and with an economy that has added jobs each of the last three months. This is of course not to say that Americans are no longer feeling the pain of the recession, but it can definitely be argued that as a result of Obama's leadership and his administration's policies, a lot of the magical, disappearing dirt has made its way back into the hole. So yes -- I'm in. And you should be too.
Why? Simple. There are important realities that we face as a nation; realities that I believe have informed the President's policies, and which are as important and impactful today as they were then. I call them "the three shuns:"
Globalization: It's a harsh truth -- ability to conduct commerce across shores easily and seamlessly due to technology means that there are many, many jobs that have left this country that are never coming back. Period.
Education: Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranks 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. And even as unemployment continues to hover around 8.5 percent, many jobs that require high-tech skills are going unfilled and leaving companies no choice but to look outside our borders for workers they need.
Innovation: In every major recorded recession, it's taken major innovation to spur the country back into economic health. But innovation takes a level of commitment that the nation has lost, and as a result, countries are cleaning our clocks when it comes to keeping up with our infrastructure, and investing in alternate forms of energy.
I'm convinced that President Obama has tried over the last three-and-a-half to manage the country to these realities always, with shovel in hand, trying to restore order to the hole.
And so as I look back on what's been since my time as an Obama volunteer, I can honestly say that no -- this time there may not be the adoring, impassioned crowds, the t-shirts and theme songs. And there may not be the fired up, engaged volunteer corps that helped propel the President into office. So -- that's where Black Women for Obama comes in. It's our job this time to spread the message of his real record -- the record that includes passing the Lily Ledbetter Act to give woman equal pay for an equal days work; a record that includes more financial reforms meant to protect average Americans than any time in history, and an expansion of environmental policies that rivals any recent President. And a record that shows an ability to go after and defeat our enemies, in ways that actually make us safer as a nation, without all the lip service.
I'm in -- I'm still a Black Woman for Obama. I believe in what the next four years will bring, and I believe in the President's ability to bring it. So I hope you'll come on in too -- the political waters are fine.
Follow Patricia Wilson-Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/patwilsonsmith