During his commentary on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” after last month’s mid-term elections, Tavis Smiley noted that the Democratic Party enjoyed overwhelming support from African-Americans and that it was important for the Democratic leadership to say thank you.
Today, on behalf of my party, I offer that thanks. For the first time in 12 years, Democrats enjoy a majority in both houses of Congress. This would not have been possible without the tremendous support from the African-American community.
As Senate Democratic leader, I’m often asked the question, “Does the Democratic Party take African-American support for granted?” Absolutely not. We’re not above criticism, but we don’t take anyone for granted, as our record of the last two years shows.
When President Bush attempted to privatize Social Security, a program that provides the only source of income for one in three African-Americans 65 and older, as well as disability and survivor benefits, Democrats fought and defeated his proposal.
When President Bush attempted to pack the courts with conservative right-wing judges, seeking to roll back the civil rights that countless Americans sacrificed so much to gain, Democrats fought to keep the worst nominees from being seated.
When forces were conspiring to delay passage of the Voting Rights Act, Democrats worked with their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to secure the future of voting rights for all Americans.
When the administration provided slow relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina, again, it was Democrats who fought—and continue the fight—to provide additional relief.
After all, this election was bigger than Democrats and our supporters. This election was about a new direction at home and abroad. The best way for Democrats, to repay Americans—including African-Americans—for supporting us is to deliver the new direction they demanded at the ballot box.
For years, Congress has sat on the sidelines, doing nothing, while challenges in health care, energy, the economy and Iraq have grown worse. I believe it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to work together to achieve results. By results, I mean an increase in the minimum wage and improving access to affordable health care. I mean increased funding for college education, reduced tuition costs so that all deserving students achieve their dreams, and the creation of new jobs that don’t just help families keep their heads above water, but that help them get ahead.