Enjoying Americana, And Savoring The Voting Experience

Even though my candidate of choice didn’t prevail yesterday, voting always makes me feel good — about myself, but especially about my country.  There is something deeply moving and profound, quiet but enormous, reaffirming and empowering, about going to the polls on Election Day and casting your ballot in this huge and diverse nation where we manage to settle disagreements by elections, not roadside bombs or terrorist attacks.

When I woke up this morning, I still felt good about our election.  On my walk through our quiet neighborhood, I wanted to listen to music that expresses, to my mind at least, a little bit of that uplifting mixture of emotions that I feel when I vote.  I donned my iPod and thumbed to my Americana playlist, which is a compilation of songs of every different category and classification, linked together only because they all — through message, or genre, or context, or something else — seem quintessentially American to me.  I listened as the dogs and I strolled along this morning, savoring an eclectic mix of music that reflects the broad, sweeping nature of this land and its people, and counted myself lucky that I was born an American.

The first 20 songs on my Americana playlist are:

Ashokan Farewell   (The Civil War soundtrack)
Sweet Georgia Brown    (Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli)
Air Mail Special    (Benny Goodman And His Orchestra)
Over The Rainbow    (Judy Garland, The Wizard Of Oz Soundtrack)
Polly Wolly Doodle   (Leon Redbone)
Dipper Mouth Blues    (Arturo Sandoval)
My Girl    (The Temptations )
Someone To Watch Over Me    (Frank Sinatra)
No More    (The Blind Boys Of Alabama)
Dig My Grave Both Long And Narrow (Amasong)
Summertime    (Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong)
Blowin’ In The Wind    (Bob Dylan)
Goodnight Louise    (Boz Scaggs)
When The Saints Go Marching In    (Dr. John)
50,000 Names    (George Jones)
Anything Goes    (Helen Merrill)
Calling My Children Home    (Emmylou Harris)
Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) (Natalie Cole, Live)
They’re Red Hot    (Robert Johnson)
The Cascades    (Scott Joplin)

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Congratulations, Mr. President, And Good Luck

President Obama was re-elected last night, narrowly beating Mitt Romney.  I congratulate the President on his victory and wish him success.  In my experience, a successful President usually means we have a successful America.

Democrats kept control of the U.S. Senate, while Republicans kept control of the House of Representatives.  In short, the United States is in for more divided government.  After two consecutive “wave” elections, the message of this election seems to be to maintain the status quo.

Divided government is not necessarily a bad thing.  The Constitution, with its complex system of checks and balances, contemplates divided government, where one man or the passions expressed in one election can’t fully control the direction of the nation.  Our system — wisely, I think — contemplates compromise and collaboration to accomplish legislative goals.  Our problem lately is that we haven’t had meaningful compromise, or perhaps even meaningful attempts at compromise, from the President or the two Houses of Congress.  Perhaps that unwillingness to compromise was due to the rapidly shifting views of the electorate and the looming presence of the 2012 election, but with that election now one day behind us that rationale no longer exists.

With more divided government a reality, President Obama and the congressional leaders of both parties need to figure out how to compromise, because only through compromise will we be able to address the huge problems confronting our nation.  We all know what those problems are:  the “fiscal cliff” of self-imposed cuts and tax increases that will take effect in less than two months, trillion-dollar deficits that extend into the foreseeable future, adding to a dangerous amount of national debt, and entitlement programs that are on the road to bankruptcy unless reforms are instituted.  All of these issues, and others, have reached the point of criticality.

We can no longer afford drift and inaction in the face of these challenges.  It is time for President Obama and Congress to grapple with these issues and to reach the kinds of rational compromises that people of good will, but different political viewpoints, can find acceptable.  It will be a big task that requires leadership, bipartisanship, and a recognition that the needs of the country must take priority over momentary political advantage.

When I left our house at 5 a.m. today for the morning walk with Penny and Kasey, I noticed that some of our neighbors of both parties who had put candidate signs in their yards had removed them already.  They recognize that the election is over and it is time to move on with our lives.  We need some of that same attitude at both ends of Pennsylvanian Avenue.