Charles Babington of The Associated Press reports:
President Barack Obama’s re-election, coupled with Republicans’ continued hold on the House, gives both parties a chance to rethink, and perhaps undo, the bitter partisanship that has gripped Washington for four years and frustrated Americans who see big problems going unsolved.
It won’t be easy. Both sides claim, with some justification, a mandate from the voters.
“We’ll have as much of a mandate as he will,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said shortly before the election, correctly anticipating the results.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was frostier in his post-election remarks. “The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president’s first term,” McConnell said.
“Now it’s time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House,” he said, “and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.”
After three straight swing elections, Americans decided to keep Obama in the White House, leave Republicans in control of the House and let Democrats stay atop the Senate, with Republicans still able to block measures with filibusters.
There’s an irony, or self-flagellation, there. Americans express exasperation at the partisan sniping and gridlock that pushed the nation to the brink of defaulting on its loans last year, and which might trigger new crises soon. The narrowness of Obama’s win accurately reflects the nation’s nearly 50-50 partisan divide. It’s a split that will make progress on any major issues difficult for at least another two years, and probably longer.
Every newly elected president claims a mandate, and Obama can point to the roughly $1 billion that Mitt Romney and his GOP allies spent trying to oust him. Yet, for all its tactical brilliance, Obama’s campaign was built on relatively modest ideas. It focused on helping the middle class, which is a coalition of identity, not ideology.
It may have been a status quo election. But if the White House and congressional Republicans simply stand their ground on taxes and other issues, they run risks — not just for the nation’s well-being, but also for the legacies of a barrier-breaking president and a Republican Party that has tapped a deep vein of conservative, almost libertarian emotion. (more…)