The Age of Obama... Change we can believe in?

ImageBy every measure, the past two years have been a political roller coaster ride for African Americans that has taken us to the highest mountain of celebration, and the deepest valley of suffering. One year ago, we were making plans, along with many others, to attend the inauguration of the first African American to be elected President of the United States. We were filled with the audacity of hope, and energized by "change we can believe in."

As the dust settles on 2009, we are still suffering the highest unemployment, highest foreclosures, the worst schools, and poorest healthcare. How are we to leverage the "Age of Obama" to improve our situation?

Now the reality of the "Party of No" and "Teabaggers" and those who call our new President a "racist, socialist, and soft on terrorism" has set in. We all should realize that our work was not done with casting our vote in November 2008. We now know full well that President does not mean Messiah.

So, what should we look forward to in the New Year? First, we need to recognize that Obama "owns everything" from this point forward -- the wars, the economy, protection from terrorism, the standoffs with Iran and North Korea, jobs, education, and healthcare reform. It is time to stop talking about what he inherited from Bush. Secondly, we must understand that he cannot affect the change we hoped for alone. We are now fully engaged in the "Age of Obama."

More importantly, those of us who supported him must begin to understand how we can help achieve our goals while helping Obama to be successful. The alternative -- to allow the Party of No to prevail in the 2010 elections -- is unacceptable. We must stay engaged. I have recently heard calls from the "progressive left" that we should abandon the current effort at healthcare reform, and start over in the next session of congress. That amounts to capitulation. There is no tomorrow for quitters.

We have been through a year of "Advanced Politics 101." The success of all of our aspirations is measured by two numbers -- "60" and "218". If we haven't learned that lesson, we have learned nothing. The deals that get made won't be pretty, but that's the way things get done in Washington. The Age of Obama will go down in the history books based on the successes that come out of these two numbers in the Senate and House of Representatives. The opposition is united in its resistance.

So, those of us who want our priorities to count for something need to learn how to make our vote the "60th vote" in the Senate, or the "votes that get us to 218" in the House of Representatives. We need to let our representatives know that our votes are important, and count for something. The upcoming elections in 2010 will determine if we know how to win or just pout when we can't have everything that we want. We must retain the majorities we gained, or there is nothing to build on.

Welcome to politics in the big leagues.

The real battle is still ahead of us -- to retain the majorities that make change possible. So, as we consider all the things we want Obama to do, remember that neither he nor we can accomplish anything without these two numbers -- 60 and 218. The 2010 elections -- when every member of the House and one third of the Senate is up for reelection -- will be the real test of our commitment to change we can believe in, or if the Age of Obama is a passing fancy.