Opportunities and Challenges in a Second Term

After a months-long political campaign, we wake up this morning, take a look around at the new additions to the political landscape, and get ready to “think big” about our goals over the next few years. Whatever your political views, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democratic, our responsibility for shaping the world includes choosing who will lead us politically in the forefront of the fight for social justice. Each of your votes counted and played a defining role in setting policy agendas. Exercising your constitutional rights as voters and activists not only strengthens American democracy but our work for social justice at the RAC.

President Obama in his second term will face a host of challenges at home and abroad. The voices of people of faith “speaking truth to power” as the president decides how to meet those challenges will be more vital than ever. And during the campaign, discussion of our responsibilities to provide a safety net to the poor were alarmingly absent.

Economic Justice
Our voices must be raised on behalf of Americans struggling to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, even as some misguidedly call for the weakening of parts of that safety net from food stamps to Medicaid to Social Security. Poverty and growing economic inequality demand the moral responses of Jews and all religious groups dedicated to opportunity for all.

LGBT Equality
It is unlikely that we will quickly find consensus on gay marriage and allowing states to continue to make their own decisions (including repealing the Defense of Marriage Act) is the right course to follow at this time. But until the past few years, there was significant Republican support for a law that would ban employment discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. A concerted effort for passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act now could attract the support of those Republican legislators interested in finding common ground issues on which they can work across the aisle. The equality of the LGBT community cannot be ignored, particularly in light of the civil rights struggles that the Jewish community has faced historically.

Immigration
Actions must be taken to address the plight of undocumented immigrants who too often live in the shadows even as they contribute to and are a vital part of the fabric of our communities. Implementation of the DREAM Act provisions, begun by the Obama Administration in its first term, should be a part of this action. The results of this election reflect the need for both parties to address the needs of the Latino community more assertively than they have before. And we must remember that this is not just a Latino issue, it’s an American issue – Latinos share concerns of all Americans who recognize that our immigration system must be reformed to ensure fair economic and labor policies needed by our country.

International Human Rights
And, of course, we must look beyond our borders as well, with priorities including: reinvigorating the Administration’s efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians – so vital to U.S. and to the interests of both parties there, acting more assertively in support of the security and well being of the besieged civilians in Syria, supporting religious freedom as a universal norm and addressing global warming before that crisis spins out of control. Our ability as a nation to organize global coalitions to tackle the greatest challenges – from human trafficking to Iran – is unmatched, and our leaders must leverage our diplomatic power to achieve these goals.