The din of Democracy, which ebbs and flows according to election cycles, has calmed as most Americans now focus on their normal lives. They had witnessed a historic amount of campaign spending, about $6 billion, more than one million political ads, and seemingly endless news coverage. After all the shouting was over, and the ballots were counted, the political balance of power did not change in Washington.
Yet one could conclude that the 2012 presidential election had two outcomes. President Obama was given a second chance to fix entitlements, tax policy, the economy, deficits and immigration. The American people empowered the president to stand up to the extremes of both parties, if necessary, to come up with reasonable and balanced solutions to these daunting problems. The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party was knocked back on its heels. So it is time for the president to be bold and use an "all hands on deck" approach in order to galvanize Congressional support around solutions. The president should also be transparent with the American people, in effect, "crowdsource" ideas, and include them in the process.
President Obama has a small window in which to act before the midterm campaign begins. He should first start building momentum by working out a balanced solution to the so-called fiscal cliff. Congress must have a budget agreement by the end of the year or the Bush tax reductions will expire and deep cuts will be made to the defense budget. It is time for a grand bargain, a compromise, that includes budget cuts AND some revenues.
Meanwhile, for Republicans, it is mourning in America. The party of Lincoln failed to recognize that the country is a melting pot with diverse voices and evolving needs. Instead, the GOP is hanging on to a Norman Rockwell vision of America. Republican members of Congress have been unwilling to budge on tax increases for the wealthy because they fear of losing the Tea Party's support.
Now Republicans have a chance to show all Americans that they are willing to compromise. Reaching an agreement on the fiscal cliff will be an important first step for them to reach out to all segments of the population. Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday, "I think the members understand that the fiscal cliff... is unacceptable." And earlier this week he said, "The issue here is the president wants revenue. I'm willing to put revenue on the table." But the speaker will not agree to rate hikes for high-income earners, rather just closing loopholes and eliminating deductions. The Democrats don't agree with his approach.
If the president and Congress do not make a deal on the fiscal cliff by the end of the year, the U.S. economy will likely spiral into another recession. With so much at stake, the stock market has been sharply lower out of concern for what Washington will do. A solution requires compromise from both parties, and compromise will send a strong message to all Americans that both parties agree their country comes first.
One final note, President Obama received 9 million fewer votes than he did in 2008, while Mitt Romney received about 2 million fewer votes than Senator John McCain did when President Obama defeated him. It is likely they were turned off by the negative campaigns waged by both candidates, their misleading claims, and the sheer magnitude of the political advertising.
Among the losers this election year were billionaires David and Charles Koch, and Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate. They spent millions of dollars trying to defeat the president and failed.
Perhaps the biggest loser was Fox News contributor and GOP strategist Karl Rove. His political groups, American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS, spent about $325 million of other people's money trying to elect Romney and other Republicans to office with little success. He also had an embarrassing meltdown on television when Fox News called Ohio for the president.
Rove was unapologetic about his dismal campaign results, explaining in a conference call to donors Thursday, according to one press report, that the Republican losses would have been bigger without him. No doubt his financial supporters believe him.
And no doubt Rove is laughing all the way to the bank.
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