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.