Did any of you reading this blog ever visualize being the President of the United States when you were a young person dreaming up potential careers? As children, most of us wanted to be things that were far from our grasp, but when I was a kid growing up in New York, nobody around me ever really dreamed about becoming President of the United States or running for Congress or Senate; it just didn’t happen. Seeing nothing but mostly White men holding local and national office, the idea of one of us leading the way wasn’t something we regularly imagined. As a young girl, I aimed high, but females, especially Black females, were not common in national political office where I came from.
But then the election of 2008 happened.
And not only were so many young people of color engaged for the first time, but we saw exactly what happens when we take the time to vote: it was a period of political euphoria.
And now in 2012, we again paid attention to issues we care about like women’s rights, health care reform, education, immigration reform, student loan debt, and more. We listened, researched, and we voted. And it was us – Blacks, Latinos, Asians and women – that largely decided the 2012 election on all levels.
We’ve got the power; now we have to figure out how to keep using it.
Along with re-electing President Obama, we sent many Congressional and Senate members back to D.C. who sided with fighting for the majority and not the wealthy 1 percent. But we also made strides by electing a record number of women into the Senate. For the first time in U.S. history, women will hold 20 seats in the Senate. We elected the first Asian-American female from the state of Hawaii, and the first openly gay female from the state of Wisconsin. And in the state of New Hampshire, we elected an all-female delegation with two women heading to Congress (the state already has two female Senators).
This in itself speaks volumes about the power of our vote.
When we look at the percentage breakdown of the “minority vote,” it truly is amazing. Some 93 percent of Blacks voted for President Obama, as did 71 percent of Latinos. Young people – those aged 18 to 29 – also overwhelming supported this President. And 70 percent or more of Asians and gays/lesbians also re-elected President Obama, while a majority of women (especially single women) also cast their vote in his favor.
Those numbers just say it all.
Not only are the demographics of the country changing, but we are paying attention and we are getting involved. Now that we’re on a high from this election, we have to keep moving forward.
For too long we haven’t used the power of our vote and the power of our voices to shape the way we want our country to go. First, of course, we weren’t allowed to vote, then we were systematically kept out of the process, but now, in 2012, after we’ve pushed back against voter suppression, we’ve got to harness our power even more.
There will be local elections where you live, and there will be the mid-term elections before you know it. All of us have to start studying what races will take place where we are, and we have to participate in the process.
Voting and putting people in office really does impact you directly – and don’t let anybody ever tell you otherwise. Even if you never dreamed of becoming President as a kid, you can see what happens when we vote people in to office that address our issues and address our hopes for the future.
The power’s in our hands; let’s continue using it. Now’s not the time to sit back; now’s the time to get more involved. And anyone who wants our vote better understand who’s got the power.