CHICAGO – In the final days leading up to Election Day, a friend told me that God wasn’t finished with President Barack Obama because he has four more years of important work to do on behalf of the American people.
I believe she was right. And I also believe that many African Americans feel the same way.
And it’s no coincidence that “Barack” means “Blessed One.”
Millions of Americans – a determined multi-cultural coalition – returned Obama to the White House for a second term Tuesday and embraced Obama’s message of hope and resilience in the face of economic adversity.
“Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come,” Obama told 10,000 supporters at McCormick Place Convention Center in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois.
Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney decisively with 303 electoral votes, compared to 206 for Romney. Obama also won the popular vote in a race where Republicans tried to define Obama as a poor fiscal manager. In fact, Obama beat the odds: He is the first president in decades to win the White House when the unemployment rate is over 7.2 percent.
But Tuesday’s victory for Obama was a phenomenal accomplishment for an African American to win two presidential elections in a deeply divided nation.
Obama, in an impressive triumph, won at least six battleground states.
“Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you’ve made me a better president,” Obama said. “And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.”
The president won key battleground states including Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. And he won these states – and others – with strong support from African Americans, Latinos, whites, young voters and women who stood in extremely long lines to cast their ballots.
And they also took advantage of early voting, following Obama’s lead when, last week, Obama became the first president in history to vote before Election Day.
Tuesday’s victory for Obama was not just about an election, it was a continuation of a social movement that started during his historic election in 2008.
It’s a movement of optimism that continues with people like an African American doorman of a Chicago hotel who said he’s motivated to work harder because of Obama’s encouragement; or the black woman serving sandwiches in local a deli who said her son is turning his life around because of the president’s leadership; and the Arab cab driver who said Obama was an inspiration to people a world away.
“We are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation,” Obama told the crowd. “The best is yet to come.”
A year ago, Jim Messina, the Obama campaign manager, told me that Obama would win re-election in large part because of a solid grass-roots ground game that Democrats put in place all across the country.
It was a ground game that buried Romney.
“I pray the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” Romney said in an early-morning concession speech. “And I trust that his intellect and his hard work and his commitment to principle will continue to contribute to the good of our nation.”
For Obama, his decades-long superstition of playing basketball on Election Day continued Tuesday — and it worked. But superstition aside, many black Americans believe Obama’s resounding victory over Romney was in some way a result of divine intervention.
“While our journey has been long,” Obama told a cheering crowd, “we have picked ourselves up.”
Obama is starting his second term in the White House the way he ended his 17-month campaign: with a passionate directive of hope.
And “God’s grace.”