Here’s to a distinguished 2nd term for Obama

The News TribuneNovember 7, 2012 

Four more years for Barack Obama. We’ll let the partisans cheer and groan; it’s time to settle down to the challenges the president will face in his hard-won second term.

Elected along with Obama is another Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Its leaders should be sobered by the return of their political nemesis to the White House – and by the defeat of hyper-conservative Republican candidates for the Senate.

The GOP brand is becoming a harder sell in the United States. That’s partly because its primary voters have purged some of its most appealing mainstream conservatives, partly because the entire party is letting itself be marginalized as an old guard of whites in a nation of expanding ethnic minorities.

Yet the Republicans are not going away, and conservatism is far from a spent force in American politics. There’s still that House majority, led by Speaker John Boehner, for Obama to reckon with.

We’d like to think that the election will clarify things. Republicans can no longer dream of denying the president a second term. Obama knows that the House stands athwart any legislative plans he’d like to pursue in his second term.

They’ll have to live with each other, and deal with each other, if they want to accomplish anything worthwhile for the American people.

America’s overriding problem – to which most other problems attach – is its financial health. The federal government’s immense deficits and the stunning national debt are grave threats to the country. Only Obama, Boehner and the people behind them can do something about it.

There’s but a single path to solvency: curbing entitlements and increasing revenues. That means less spending and more taxes. Among America’s leaders, all but the ideologues understand this. Obama will cover himself with glory if he uses his presidential pulpit to restore fiscal sanity.

In mid-2011, Boehner and Obama struggled to negotiate a “grand bargain” that might have produced a long-term solution. They glimpsed the Promised Land – then failed to cross the Jordan.

Yes, blame the diehards in the House. But effective presidents find ways to neutralize hardened adversaries in Congress. They cajole, co-opt, arm-twist, reward, buy off and disarm enough opponents to create a working majority. Obama will not achieve a distinguished second term simply by complaining about uncooperative Republicans.

Nor will Republicans serve America by perpetuating guerilla warfare against the president. They didn’t want it this way, but Obama remains their president. For the country’s sake, please, help him succeed.

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