02-19-2017  6:11 pm      •     

It's crunch time. Today, Americans hit the voting booth and decide the fate of our nation. The question we all must ask ourselves is do we want to continue going forward, or do we want to reverse the progress we have achieved over the last few years and beyond? At such a pivotal moment in history, when so much is hanging in the balance, there is absolutely no excuse for any one of us to sit home on Election Day. There was a time when African Americans were intimidated, charged poll taxes, beaten, and even killed for their desire to vote. In 2010, when no one is shooting us or threatening us, what is the justifiable explanation for not voting on Nov. 2? The answer: absolutely nothing.

During the course of seven days, I myself hit the road on a coast-to-coast voter education tour that brought me to places like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Gainesville, and more. Speaking at rallies, interfacing with clergy, and community leaders, visiting polling locations, and of course talking to the people, I was pleased to witness the enthusiasm and sheer number of crowds at each stop on this non-partisan tour. In addition to emphasizing early voting in states like Florida, I could not stress enough the need for everyone to actively participate in shaping their future. We simply cannot complain about financial woes or the economy, we must take some sort of action ourselves. We cannot continue to discuss institutional racism or inequality without ensuring that the right folks are in a position of power to turn the tide. And, we cannot for a second assume that this President can do it alone.

We hear a lot of talk these days from conservatives and others with regressive agendas that Obama has not delivered on his promises, and is responsible for the current state of the nation. Let's remind those with short-term memories that it was the previous administration that took us into a catastrophic deficit that culminated in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. It was under President Bush that we were losing some 750,000 jobs per month, and it was under his tutelage that large-scale financial bailouts became the norm. During the eight years of the Bush Presidency, we found ourselves entrenched in two wars, and our privacy rights infringed upon at home.

There are also those that are quick to dismiss President Obama's achievements. And to be clear, they are unquestionably remarkable achievements. Thanks to the President's historic healthcare reform, children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage and young folks can remain on their parents' insurance until the age of 26. And, during the course of the next few years, more advances in healthcare reform will take affect, including the idea that no one will ever be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

President Obama halted and is beginning to reverse the course of an economic catastrophe. He has introduced historic financial regulatory reform, established protection for consumers against credit card companies, nominated progressive Supreme Court justices like Sonia Sotomayor, and improved our standing on the world stage. Following years of virtual isolation and self-aggrandizement, the U.S. is once again engaging in dialogue with our neighbors, and working out differences before they escalate to war, thanks to the policies of the President.

There is of course nobody that can say President Obama has saved the world and that no challenges remain for us to tackle. That would be beyond foolish. But, we must remember that he is a man – one man – who cannot do it alone. For those that may be frustrated because their particular progressive cause has not been achieved, just imagine how much more difficult it will be without the backing of the House and the Senate. And, for that matter, how difficult it will be for the President to maintain all that he has garnered without the support of both legislative bodies.

It's not enough that we highlight inequities and injustice in society, we must consciously do something about it. And the simplest way to do so is by casting our vote on Nov. 2. There was a time when we dodged bullets and risked our lives to do so; we cannot let laziness take over this fundamental right that so many literally gave their lives.

In 2008, we elected our first Black President with the power of our vote. Let's see what we can do in 2010.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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