President Obama’s narrow re-election victory Wednesday morning does not resolve the nation’s deep divisions, but it sends a message that ought to resound clearly. It is that the nation is not ready to embrace the ideologically rigid, anti-tax, anti-government program that has brought Washington to a standstill over the past two years.
With the winds of the Tea Party rebellion at their back, Republicans over the past two years used every lever at hand to block action on important issues of taxation, economic stimulus and budget reform. But with this election result, that rebellion has passed its peak. Obama now is in a position to push the kind of compromise that till now Republicans have refused to consider.
Obama’s victory is a historic vindication of a brave and principled president. As he took office four years ago, he faced the gravest economic crisis in two generations, and he was willing to make decisions for the sake of the nation that put him in political peril.
His decision to help bail out the auto industry became central to the political campaign because it was emblematic of two views of government. Obama invested federal dollars in General Motors and Chrysler, attaching conditions that helped turn the industry around. It was a successful instance of federal activism. Mitt Romney, by contrast, remained true to his laissez faire political ideology and counseled that the industry should be allowed to sink into bankruptcy, taking tens of thousands of jobs with it.
Obama’s victory in Ohio, key to his overall victory, reflected a recognition on the part of Ohio voters that Obama had made the right choice. It was better for workers, for the companies and for the economy of Ohio.
What Obama did for the auto industry through the bailout he did for the economy as a whole through his stimulus program. He would have done more were he not stymied by Republicans in Congress. Romney, on the other hand, had aligned himself with the do-nothing Congress, so when he claimed that he knew how to create jobs, voters saw that his record said otherwise.
That the economy is still lagging was a liability for the president. It was a liability for the Republicans that they chose to nominate the kind of big-time financier who has been at the root of much of the nation’s economic problems.
Further, this election showed that there are limits to the effectiveness of the political lie. Romney was brazen in his willingness to put forward contradictory versions of himself, and it caught up with him. Toward the end of the campaign Obama was able to tell voters that they knew what he stood for. Voters by then hadn’t a clue what Romney stood for. Then when Romney disseminated an ad saying that Obama’s policy was causing Jeep to send jobs overseas to China, even the car companies called him on it. The big lie did not work in Ohio.
The great crusade for hope and change that Obama launched four years ago has been roughed up by reality, but voters recognized that the path we are on is the way through. It is not easy. Obama has been steady and strong. He is leading us in the right direction.
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