With so much focus on the election day results, it is understandably hard for black people to think about the day after. But either way, if President Obama is re-elected or Mitt Romney manages to capture the White House, there are many things the black community should be doing to better situate itself for prosperity in a nation where blacks and Latinos are on their way to becoming a majority of the population.
For the first time, in May of this year, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that there were more babies of color born over the past year than white babies. This means that over the next couple of decades, black, Latino and Asian Americans could form a governing coalition that could essentially rule the country.
Already, the racial split in the electorate this year reveals one thing with certainty: the days when a candidate could win the presidency with just the support of white people are likely over. Fueled exclusively by white men, Romney has never been able to overtake Obama in the polls. The only time he came close was when he managed to peel off a bit of Obama’s support among white women. But by putting together a coalition that looked a lot more like America, Obama clearly has a much easier time pulling off victory tonight than Romney.
This means that black and brown people must starting making more demands on the occupant of the White House, pushing for policies that are going to benefit people of color, rather than the white middle class that has seemed to be the preoccupation of both political parties in modern times.
If Obama wins re-election, black people will be presented with a trial run for the American future, when our sheer numbers and the fact that we have the power to put candidates in office mean that we are in a position to dictate policy like never before. Without being fearful of endangering Obama’s re-election, the African-American community should be aggressive about pushing the president to institute programs and policy that will radically improve our employment situation, our schools, our difficulties in securing fair mortgages, our accessibility to good healthcare. When we are continually falling behind on these measures, it means that the policies of the White House are not working for us.
What will be especially important over the next four years if Obama wins is for the black community to start looking to a new generation of black leadership to rise when Obama is gone from the scene—people like Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner from Cleveland, Congresswomen Marcia Fudge of Ohio and Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn. It has proven difficult for black leaders to flex their muscles in the age of Obama—it’s as if he takes up all the oxygen in the black leadership room. But we must start preparing for the future—a future when we will have the power to make change, particularly in coalitions with our Latino brethren.
If Romney beats Obama, after we awaken from our deep mourning we will soon realize that we are back in the place we’ve always been—pushing and kicking and screaming at the administration to address our issues. Of course Romney will likely be even less willing than most presidents in recent memory to pay us any attention, given where his support came from in this election. But that won’t be the end of the world for us, because it’s a situation we’re used to. It will mean that we will have the perfect hothouse to forge the next generation of black leaders because the Romney opposition will be getting all of our attention.We will have a chance to see who will lead us with courage, intelligence and vision.
It should be no secret to us that it is in times of adversity when the black community shows its mettle, its incredible strength and foresight. In a Romney world, we will need all of that and more to survive intact. But we will know that the day is out there on the horizon, in the near future, when the U.S. as a nation will no longer be able to elect a president who doesn’t cater to our needs. In essence, Romney would be akin to the last dinosaurs roaming the earth, stomping across the landscape, not even realizing that their days are numbered.