At the end of last week, and over the weekend, conciliatory gestures repeatedly were made by leading Republicans toward President Obama and his administration. Pundits seemed either horrified or wary of the softening in the rigid “us versus them” polarity that has stifled much of the president’s agenda for the first four years.
Politics is power, and the parties have become more entrenched in ideology and principle. The gauntlet was thrown down not long ago when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the promise that Republicans would limit the president to one term and cripple him politically in the meantime.
Every effort was made to do so, right up until the final votes were cast.
The most expensive election in American history is now behind us, with an estimated price tag of $6 billion, propelled by legal and regulatory decisions that allowed wealthy donors to pour record amounts of cash into races around the nation. For example, of the eight candidates backed by the largest contributor in U.S. history — tens of millions of dollars each — Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s expensive bets all came up short. Money proved not to be the answer.
Within hours of the election results, and the stark revelation that the demographics of the nation had shifted once again, the rhetoric was far less incendiary or contentious.
Notably, when Republican House Speaker John Boehner told Obama on Wednesday, “Mr. President, this is your moment. We’re ready to be led — not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative, but as President of the United States.”
We hope that sentiment is genuine, and that the overtures toward more bipartisanship continue to melt the chill that has kept our government from working to its potential.
There is nothing wrong with differing points of view, debates and even discord, especially by minority parties. We need it to instigate course corrections by the majority. It is healthy in a democratic society to encourage different points of view and exhaust ideas through principled discussion and debate.
Regardless of party affiliation, there are ambitious, intelligent men and women in our government determined to preserve our freedoms and make our country stronger both in quality of life and in prosperity.
Here in Vermont, our Democratic governor and the Republican lieutenant governor had agreed to disagree on issues, but continue to have worthwhile discussions about health care, taxes and renewable energy. Neither Gov. Peter Shumlin nor Lt. Gov. Phil Scott seems to let party politics play into whether the debate should even be started. And with Vermont’s unusual access to our leaders, constituents are able to effectively be part of the discussion and have a voice.
“In the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with the leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil,” Obama stated in his victory speech.
What happens next, as the fiscal cliff looms on the horizon, weighs heavily on all Americans.
Both sides agree, the coming negotiations hold big risks for Democrats and Republicans, and for Obama’s ability to pursue other priorities in his next term.
Americans have insisted on balance, and want solutions to the pressing problems of our day. We now must hold our elected officials accountable to ensure that happens.
Take the time over the next few weeks to write to the members of our congressional delegation to remind them (so that they might remind others in those hallowed halls) that Vermont’s expectations are high.
We demand results, not posturing and gamesmanship that leads us and the country nowhere.
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