Just a few days before the highly coveted Iowa caucuses, all we keep hearing is talk of who is up in the polls, who is down, who made the latest gaffe and who the most conservative GOP candidate is of them all. But while we can sit and argue all day over whether Willard Mitt Romney will win in Iowa, or whether Newt Gingrich or latest favorite Rick Santorum will steal the most right-wing votes, the bottom line is, they're all saying absolutely nothing. As we're fascinated by the new flavor of the month, let's not forget that at the end of the day, none of these Republican contenders have a vision for the future that is in line with hard-working Americans. They may come in slightly different packaging, but when it boils down to it, they're all offering the same old Kool-Aid. And the country refuses to drink any more.
Vetting candidates and learning their position on issues is obviously a vital part of the election process. But while we assess and analyze every nuance, let's not lose sight of what this race is about: The fundamental direction of the nation. It's a basic fight over whether we want to be a country with a federal government that maintains so many of the civil liberties people literally sacrificed their lives for. It's a question of whether the United States wants to continue being united with fundamental guarantees of a free public education, and necessary safety nets like social security, unemployment benefits, welfare, Medicare, Medicaid and more. It is after all, those programs and many of the infrastructural processes that separate us from much of the world. Even at the most impoverished level, we can take some semblance of hope in knowing that there will be food stamps to feed our kids and a bit of unemployment insurance to try and clothe our loved ones. If these GOP candidates could have their way, much of this would be eliminated forever.
Because of things like social security benefits, Americans know that they will not have to work forever. They are aware that programs they paid in to for years will be there when it's their time to take a breather. When I said this election is "not about Obama, it's about your mama" -- that's because it is. It's about your mama, your grandmamma, your grandpa, your father, your children and your own future. We're at a pivotal point in our history and it is not a time for complacency.
President Obama was able to pass the most sweeping heath care reform we have seen. But right before many of these provisions will take place, Republicans would like nothing more than to reverse this reform and leave health insurance only for the privileged ones. If you listen to any of these GOP contenders, their entire mantra is repealing "'Obamacare" at a time when many have already been aided tremendously by the change. It is just another example of how this 2012 race is about basic, central choice; the choice of progress vs. regression.
Politics can be exciting, it can be interesting and it can be engaging to watch. We all entertain ourselves with the back-and-forth and we enjoy discussing developments -- I myself have a cable TV show where we touch on issues of the day at length. But even as we debate the candidates and make our arguments, we cannot stray away from the larger picture of where we would like to see ourselves tomorrow.
I've been an activist all my life, and was lucky to have studied the ways of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. I watched us gain many wins in the fight for justice, and I've seen barriers broken down all the way to the White House. I was always taught to "keep my eye on the prize," and today, we must do the same. The prize is not which candidate or flavor of the month we go with, the prize is the direction of the United States. Keep your eye on the prize and occupy November.
Follow Rev. Al Sharpton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheRevAl