On Election Day, democracys most glorious and honorable day regardless of which candidate prevails, President Barack Obama was reaffirmed as the peoples choice. Despite a campaign during which he was assailed as an ineffective leader and a misguided, out-of-touch liberal and was hampered by his own poor showing in the first debate with Republican Mitt Romney, the president passed what was a referendum on his performance.
He did so despite a credible challenge from the former Massachusetts governor, who, though he was criticized by the more conservative elements in his own party, proved to be a worthy standard-bearer.
As the campaign developed, however, Romney who as governor had taken moderate positions such as praising his states health care insurance system (on which Obamacare was modeled) seemed to be a 44-long trying to wear a 40 regular. His initial attempts to appeal to the tea party alliance and others on his partys far right ended up making him appear to be someone without any firm political philosophy at all. Still, he challenged the incumbent, the status quo, which is what an opponent is supposed to do.
The question at this point is: What now for the president, who finds himself still with a U.S. House controlled by Republicans? Does he have a chance to advance any agenda that could pass muster with that majority?
The president did not embrace the straight-ahead findings of the Simpson-Bowles commission, which offered strong medicine to reduce deficits and debt, including reins on entitlement programs and a reordering of the tax system. It may be that Obamas stimulus efforts in his first term, including the successful rescue of the auto industry, werent compatible with spending curbs.
But now, with the economy appearing to be on the rebound (stronger in some states than in others), the time has come for the president to show leadership on this issue. A growing national debt demands attention, and now.
So does reining in the costs of Medicare and Social Security, sacred programs to most Americans but threatened by the crush of baby boomers coming of age and an imbalance in whats coming in and whats going out.
Job creation has improved dramatically since the president took office. That momentum must not be lost. And thankfully, Obama stands by reforms that brought more oversight to the nations financial system.
Obama spoke, in his victory speech, of a common bond uniting all Americans. Indeed, his own humble beginnings gave him a bond with the fears and hopes of average Americans. Hence his push for public investment in education, and for helping small businesses.
Contrary to what his critics have said, health care reform has made a difference to millions already. And by 2014, when millions more Americans will be insured, it should lower overall health care costs and perhaps spur some people newly able to afford insurance not tied to their jobs to become entrepreneurs, creating more jobs.
The president has planted some good seeds. They must be nurtured. A U.S. House where Republicans retain solid power will, we must hope, take away from the election a sign that the American people do not reject the presidents idea summarily, as those Republicans did. The Senate, too, remains in Democratic hands as some conservative GOP candidates were rebuffed. The people will benefit if cooperation can be found.
If both Republican lawmakers and the president have learned from the last four years, they will put those lessons to positive use in the next four.