In 2012, history was made—again. For the first time, African-American voters turned out at a higher rate than the national average, and helped lift President Barack Obama to a second term while helping Democrats add eight seats in the House of Representatives.
As we honor the 88th Black History Month, we celebrate the strides so many African Americans have made, and recognize their outsized impact at the ballot box. This fall, the congressional midterms will be another opportunity to rewrite the history books and defy expectations in a midterm election.
And there’s no question that it can be done.
Propelled by the overwhelming support and turnout of African-American voters, President Bill Clinton and Democrats in Congress gained five seats in 1998 and shocked pundits and prognosticators alike. Like President Clinton, President Obama has been confronted by obstacles beyond his control. Since this Republican Congress took the majority in 2011, they have blocked President Obama’s agenda at every turn—all because they want to protect special interests at the expense of middle-class families.
From countless votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act to shutting down the government to refusing to raise the minimum wage, time and time again, House Republicans have shown they aren’t on the side of the middle class and African-American families.
With their efforts to repeal health care reform, Republicans are trying to go back to the days when insurance companies could write the rules and be in charge—undermining the 6.8 million uninsured African Americans who now have access to affordable health insurance for the first time. When the Tea Party shut down the government, they forced more than 145,000 African-American federal employees to take furloughs, while robbing our economy of $24 billion. And by refusing to raise the minimum wage, Republicans are preventing 28 million hardworking Americans from getting a raise.
This is also the same Republican Congress that was the first in American history to vote to sanction a president’s Cabinet member: Attorney General Eric Holder. These are the types of political games that have done nothing to help working Americans build the economic security for which they’ve worked so hard.
So there’s too much at stake this fall to stay home and not get involved.
To move his agenda forward, President Obama needs more Democratic partners in Congress. But we know it won’t be easy.
In addition to the conservative Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, we have seen states across the country led by Republican legislatures launch a full-court press to enact suppressive voting legislation and disenfranchisement efforts. Too many Election Days have featured broken voting machines, flawed voter rolls, hours-long lines and misleading ballots. Republicans support these measures for a reason—the 2012 and 2008 national election results showed an undeniable correlation between turnout and Democratic Party success.