11/07/2012 02:32 pm ET Updated Jan 07, 2013

An Election to Be Proud of

If we rise above party politics for a few minutes, and we should, we would feel a real sense of pride about Tuesday's election -- particularly what it says about America and Americans. This is based on four observations; and it takes into account the regrettable fact that hundreds of millions of dollars were wasted on negative and often misleading advertising in an overly-bitter and ridiculously-expensive campaign.

While worried about the economy, Americans did not opt for unspecified promises and immaculate job creation; nor did they fall for financial engineering and deficit reduction magic. Instead, they stuck with an approach that has been establishing, albeit too slowly and too gradually, the foundation for solid growth and employment; and these are the two key ingredients for safely de-leveraging over time an economy that got drunk last decade on debt creation, credit entitlements and a crazy risk and compensation culture.

Americans also signaled that they are committed to a better educational system. This is most visible in California where we voted to increase taxes to better fund schools. It is also part of a growing realization that, if we are not careful, for the first time in over a hundred years our children's generation risks being worse off than that of their parents. Thus the importance of providing our youth a stronger educational experience, and equipping them with responsive analytical tools and more global mindsets -- all of which are essential to navigate what inevitably will be a more challenging domestic and international context.

Concern about supporting the vulnerable groups of society does not stop at education. For some, Elizabeth Warren's decisive win in Massachusetts put an exclamation mark on the importance of helping those who have fallen through our overly stretched social safety nets.

Finally, by electing a record number of women to serve in the Senate, Americans continue to signal the importance of inclusiveness and diversity. Yet this number, and that of Hispanics and other minority groups, remain well below what is both desirable and feasible based on qualifications, talent and experience. If we are to handle well the future, we need our governing institutions to better reflect demographic realities.

As we look forward, we should expect a lot of soul searching among Republicans.

They lost a presidential contest that many of them expected to win. They gave up seats in the Senate. They failed to capitalize on disappointments with some elements of President Obama's first term. And they struggled to sufficiently extend widespread support beyond the traditional base of white men.

Let us hope that this soul searching, together with Democrats' strengthened commitment to govern for all Americans, leads to constructive collaboration in Congress.

On Tuesday, America and Americans sent a clear signal that they understand the importance of supporting each other during times of continued economic stress and "unusual uncertainty." We now need our elected representatives to put the interests of the country ahead of the legacy of backward-looking and outdated partisan commitments. And we need them to do so quickly, starting with an orderly resolution of the fiscal cliff.