Now that the revelry is dying down, and the harsh reality of ongoing unemployment and the impending “fiscal cliff” re-emerges, President Obama and the Republican leadership need to commit themselves to bridging the partisan divide which has thwarted any major progress over the last four years. President Obama needs to find more effective ways to win the support of the people of this country for the policies he wishes to implement. Indeed, President Obama’s ability to acknowledge and address the unrest and deep concerns of large numbers of our nation’s citizens will, in my view, define his Presidency going - in his own word - “forward.”
Likewise, the Republican leadership needs to acknowledge and address the unrest and deep concerns of a plurality of our nation - citizens who have repudiated the policies and programs espoused by their presidential candidate. In short, both Democrats and Republicans need to find a new way “forward,” a new way to achieve the compromises which are at the heart of effective governing.
As a country we can no longer tolerate the shrill and ineffectual political rhetoric which has confounded our ability to address the many critical issues facing our country. Major differences of opinion do exist regarding ways to best address our nation’s burgeoning debt; the viability of such entitlement programs as Medicare and Medicaid; the appropriate role of government in accelerating job growth; the rationale for our nation’s regulatory environment; the most effective path to energy independence; and so on. These differences need to be recognized and addressed by both parties, and can no longer be permitted to paralyze our government. Respectful compromise must again characterize our national discourse.
The day after the election, an article in The New York Times stated that “Now, [President] Obama, a specialist in long shots, faces what may be the climactic challenge of his political career: a second chance to deliver the renewal he still promises, but without a clear mandate, a healthy economy or willing Republican partners.” However, House Speaker, John A. Boehner, has now indicated a willingness to work on crafting a compromise to avert the “fiscal cliff” which could be so detrimental to the country. This offer came, as pointed out by the Times, shortly after Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, held out the possibility of bipartisan cooperation, saying, “it’s better to dance than to fight.” While such statements are most welcome and potentially bode well for the future, it is going to take the total commitment of each and every member of the House and Senate to create the culture of bipartisan cooperation that will be essential if we are to to address the many challenges facing our nation.
Over the last several months, I have shared with you both the Democratic and Republican educational platforms. We have also examined the pivotal role our nation’s universities play in carrying out the research and development so critical to our nation’s economic prosperity… a role recognized and supported by both candidates for President. In fact, in terms of education - both K-12 and higher education - both the Republican and Democratic Parties share the belief that the quality of our educational system will largely define the future global competitiveness of our country. While differences certainly do exist between the Parties in terms of the appropriate role for the federal government in creating and supporting an effective and competitive system of education, all agree that this must be a national priority. Perhaps this is an area where early compromise is possible; where achieving a shared goal of maximizing the potential of each and every citizen through access to a quality education will trump partisanship. While, clearly, economic concerns will continue to be our nation’s priority, it is promising for all of us that, long-term, both Parties see education as central to a stable and growing economy. It is in furthering that shared belief that true bipartisanship may well be possible.
As reported in the New York Times, Mr. Boehner summed up the critical need for such bipartisanship when he said, “Mr. President, this is your moment. We’re ready to lead, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.” Indeed, there are many policy areas where both Parties share similar goals. We need to identify such areas, and use them as early models of bipartisan compromise and effective policy development. If our elected representatives are successful in such endeavors, we can, as a unified nation, look forward with real hope to the next four years.