Reflections- Pamela Taylor: Looking Toward a Presidential Legacy

In 2008 President Obama promised some important things- to get us out of Iraq, to close Guantanamo, to forbid torture, to fix the economy and to this in bipartisan fashion with the Republicans.  He has delivered significant promises but not all of them.

The blame for Obama’s failures during his first terms is not solely his, rather, the recalcitrant members of Congress, namely Republicans.  One relevant example is how Republicans moved to make it illegal for President Obama to move prisoners at Guantanamo to the US when he took steps to close it down.  This is not to say that there aren’t grave concerns about President Obama’s independent actions- from indefinite detention, the use of drone strikes, and now extrajudicial killings of American citizens overseas.

With President Obama no longer focused on his actions affecting his bid for re-election there is now an opportunity to begin to see clearer stances, clarifications of doctrines and also his desire to establish executive legacy.  The American Muslim community can capitalize on this to build momentum.

The President won by tens of thousands of votes in key states – six of the seven swing states. All of these states are where the Muslim vote accounted for more than the number of votes he won by, and exit polls indicate that 95% of Muslims voted for him. American Muslims can use these statistics to demonstrate the power of the American Muslim vote and begin to negotiate policy concerns.  President Obama’s re-election is not just a national victory, but rather, we need to tell ourselves the story of how we are powerful and we made it possible for President Obama to win a second term.

There are, however, challenges to organizing Muslims around elections that is beyond getting out the vote and that is the fact that we lack focus.  There are multiple issues and multiple directions by which the community can rally around.

A key way to address this challenge is to identify two or three items that we can more or less agree on as a community- healthcare, civil rights, or a specific foreign policy. To be effective in achieving our objectives, being able to identify the three or four issues for the community to work around is critical.  Around this a Muslim MoveOn organization can be created to continue the civic engagement beyond the vote.

Politics isn’t just about voting once in a while, or lobbying your Congressman its about civic engagement: being on the Parent Teacher Association for your child’s school or running for the School Board, mosques providing volunteers and funding for soup or homeless shelters more often then once a year.   This means helping to identify and supporting Muslims to participate at local public city council meetings and eventually running for local office.

Read other perspectives here.

Pamela K. Taylor (http://www.pktaylor.comis co-founder of Muslims for Progressive Values, former director of the Islamic Writers Alliance and strong supporter of the woman Imam movement.  You can read her thoughts at Newsweek-Washington Post “On Faith” blog.

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