January 21, 2013 — In his inaugural speech yesterday, the President challenged us to come together as one community, one Nation to tackle big things and move America forward. The pundits are effusive in their praise of this overture, as if it’s something new. But those of us who supported the President in 2008 and 2012 know that this is nothing new. Barack Obama has been talking about the importance of community and unity for quite some time, and in fact, became famous for uttering these lines in his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention:
…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too: We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States, and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.
Nor is it new that as the President continues to try to unite the country to address our challenges and opportunities, Republican Party leaders and their allies have already signaled that they will continue their strategy of dividing Americans and opposing the President’s agenda (see Joan Walsh’s piece in Salon). I am continually amazed how pundits and reporters criticize the President for his inability to change the tone in Washington, as if it his responsibility and his alone. Yes, he is the President, and he sets the tone, and like he did four years, today he asked for unity. And like they did four years ago, Republican leaders will smile politely today, but tonight will ignore the call and continue to use vicious lies and fears to divide Americans and to stop the President. So, who’s really to blame for the continued partisan tone in Washington and throughout America? To the pundits who criticize the President for not being “nice” and schmoozing with Republicans, when will you wake up and hold those Republican leaders to the same standards?
As the President begins his second term, we are told that he is wiser and knows what he’s up against with the Republican, Inc., hate machine. We the people need to be smart, too. In 2009, we were elated that we elected the President, who espoused our vision and values. We thought that we had done our job, and we went home. We didn’t turn out in 2009 during Virginia’s state elections, and we didn’t fight back against the lies during the healthcare and subsequent battles. And look what happened: Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and a Tea Party Congress.
Folks, this time, we can’t go home. We have to fight for our values. We have to fight for our community. We have to fight against policies that restrict voting rights and women’s rights. We have to turn out this year and elect people who share our values and vision and will move Virginia forward. We can’t leave it up to others. It’s up to us.