Daniella Gibbs Léger takes a moment to celebrate the large — and probably game-changing — African American vote on Election Day.
How’s everyone feeling? Tuesday night was a long one, but after a 90-minute wait for Governor Romney’s concession after the networks called it, President Obama officially won re-election. It was certainly a hard-fought battle on all sides, and while data and numbers are being crunched now for analysis, it is safe to say that President Obama will have another four years in office due in large part to the African-American community.
Many people predicted that Black voter turnout would be way down. Pundits wrung their hands, worried about an enthusiasm gap. But what I think people didn’t account for was the anger gap. I live in Washington, D.C., you know, the city that just went for Obama 91 percent. I was out working a polling precinct in the freezing cold and watched young, middle-aged and elderly African Americans stand outside for 90 minutes to 2 hours to vote. I asked many of them why they stood in line so long and the answers I got all touched on two things. One, they recognized that too many people fought for this right for them NOT to vote. But second, they wanted to prove people wrong. They were angry — not just at what they perceived as disrespect towards the President because of his race, but they were also angry because “the media” and Republicans said that they wouldn’t show up. Now true, these are just anecdotes, but I heard the same thing repeated from contacts across the country. When President Obama said voting is the best revenge, he was on to something.
So we made it through another presidential election. There wasn’t mass chaos today — people went about their daily business, some sadder than others, and the country now turns its attention to getting ready for Thanksgiving. But I’m going to hold the President to his word when he said that we have to fix the fact that people were waiting 3-8 hours in line to vote. It’s rather unbelievable and completely unacceptable that in this country of ours, people have to wait that long to cast a ballot, often in major democratic cities with high African American populations. Hmm. Nothing strange about that at all.
The fight isn’t over, though. We have a huge, looming budget crisis coming with the potential fiscal cliff at the end of the year. What’s at stake are programs heavily used by people of color that are being threatened with devastating cuts if Congress and the administration don’t reach an agreement. So, celebrate today. Play your Obama victory mixes on your iPad. Post your favorite Obama pictures on Facebook. But understand that tomorrow, the work begins again and there are still plenty of people out there who are trying to figure out how to make President Obama’s second term as difficult for him as possible.
Daniella Gibbs Léger, a former special assistant to President Obama, is the Vice President for American Values and New Communities at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter @dgibber123