The War is Over

A week ago the war to elect a new President of the United States ended.  The blue team, my team, won.In the end I found myself caught up in the moment rooting for my team.

Of course, choosing a president wasn’t the only item in the ballot.  There were all those other down-ballot elected officials to worry about, as well as some important ballot measures I was invested in. In the end it all worked out.

The Obama family deluged in balloons on election night in Chicago.

I was pleased to see President Obama win a second term.  My hope is that the president will find a more willing dance partner in Congress to get some real work done.  Everyone agrees something must be done about the deficit and hopefully the debt as well.  All, Republicans and Democrats share in the blame, and they must share in the solution.  Doubtless taxes will increase and there will be changes to Social Security and Medicare.  Regardless of what the specifics are, both sides will have to deal.  Hopefully this issue will retain the President’s attention for every minute of his term.

I was also immensely pleased to see Washington state R-74 pass. Same sex marriage, passed by the state legislature in the spring, was challenged by traditional marriage groups with a referendum.  I’m proud my state chose to uphold the measure, joining Maryland and Maine as new states recognizing such unions.  This makes nine, and the three new states are the first to approve same sex unions with a vote of its citizens rather than a court ruling or measure passed legislatively.

Lots of other candidates and measured I supported won, and a few did not.  On balance, however, I was happy with the result.

I know there are many Americans who are not happy with the result.  Barack Obama was elected president twice, and for those who have characterized him as less than American, vilified and caricatured him as the root of all America’s problems, there must be a great deal of dismay the American people could elect this man a second time.

I know this feeling.  I felt the same way when, after the charismatic Ronald Reagan finished his second term, George H.W. Bush was elected.  I mean getting behind the Gipper was one thing, but jumping on Bush’s bandwagon after Iran-Contra was quite another. Embracing another promise of low taxes and high deficits was simply beyond me.  But Dukakis was slaughtered in an electoral landslide. How could this happen?  Who could vote for four more years of fiscal self-delusion? But Poppy was a good man. He got us through the Gulf War with honor, raised taxes when it was necessary, and saw the country through the unwinding of the Soviet Union and the collapse of E. European communism. I’ve grown to appreciate his intelligence and pragmatism in the years since Clinton defeated him in 1992.

Again it happened in 2004.  I cast an uninspired vote for Al Gore in 2000.  I watched with baited breath as the anchors made their projections for Gore in Florida, and then took them back. When the Supreme Court finally said “enough!” and decided in favor of George W. Bush, I was okay.  I never believed it was a stolen election.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt, though he immediately set out to implement policies I disagreed with.  I was behind him with 9/11, I was with him when he sent troops to Afghanistan.  It wasn’t until he sent troops to Iraq that I went wholly nuts. When John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran and knowledgable senator was Swift-boated I was shocked.  Even though Kerry ran a terrible campaign surely, I believed, voters would see through the myth of WMD’s, Nigerian yellowcake, the fiscal nightmare we’d entered, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and choose Kerry along with me and pretty much everybody I knew. But no.

We’ve become a nation so divided we find it impossible to believe others could be so foolish as to vote for the other side.  Republicans, Christian conservatives, ardent anti-abortion forces, are going through the same sense of disbelief I did.  It’s not my fault, it’s the others who are too stupid to do the right thing and vote for the right policies and the right people.  Eli Saslow’s article in the Washington Post yesterday captures one person’s shock and anxiety at the Republicans’ loss and how she hopes to deal with it.  I don’t find it to be a pretty picture.

Voters from both parties have to get past the idea that one side or the other winning will be apocalyptic. It’s shocking how little the addition of one president or another can utterly screw things up.  Typically, big changes in the economy are the product of the efforts of both sides.  For example, George W. Bush didn’t help things with his spending on foreign wars, and the tax cuts, but it was also deregulation of the financial industry, which began during the Clinton administration that contributed to the financial collapse of 2007-8.

But it’s really not more blame we need.  The economy is slowly recovering-but not fast enough.  The level of debt and deficit is unacceptable.  The parties must work together to solve the deep economic issues our country faces.  In today’s David Brooks column, he suggests a series of trades Republicans and Democrats could make to get to a solution of the “fiscal cliff,” and more importantly, beyond. He also recommends a copy of “The Bargain” offered by Third Way, that would require both sides to get work together, each side getting something they want as they map out a solution to the debt and higher economic growth.

The war is over.  It’s time for peace to break out and rebuilding begin.  Yes, my team won, but it will take both to lead the country out of the fix we’re in.


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