Mr. Obama Gets Another Shot at Hope and Change
The following column about America's elections was recently published in the Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Gráfica. It was written the day after the election when Real Politik was feeling particularly bullish about the possibility of a Grand Bargain between Democrats and Republicans on deficit reduction and entitlement reform.
Real Politik is happy to report that nearly one month later the contents of this column appear to have stood the test of time.
Since the election, high-profile Republicans - including House Majority Leader, John Boehner - have indicated willingness to raise new revenues as part of a deal on long-term entitlement reform. More recently, numerous GOP representatives - including Saxby Chambliss (Sen. GA), Lindsey Graham (Sen. SC), Peter King (Rep. NY) and and Bob Corker (Sen. TN) - have gone on the record saying they would break their hitherto sacrosanct anti-tax pledges made to Grover Norquist's lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform.
Ironically, it is now the Democrats who have been talking tough about compromise on entitlement reform. While it is true that a Grand Bargain could fall apart if Democrats remain intransigent, Real Politik believes that the Party and the President will rise to the occasion.
Of course, this sunny outcome is not guaranteed. The Fiscal Cliff is fast approaching and it is possible that the following column will read as well in January as it does three weeks removed from its original draft. Hope you enjoy.
America's Elections Offer Hope for the Future
The outcome of our presidential and congressional elections will not magically erase the challenges facing America over the next four years. However, the results were a major step in the right direction for our country and offer a sense of optimism that has been lacking as of late.
President Obama earned victory by running a decidedly populist campaign focused on raising tax rates on the wealthy to Clinton-era levels and celebrating government-led interventions to save America’s financial system and auto industry.
Despite predictions of a neck-and-neck race, and concerns about weeklong recounts in Ohio and Florida, the electoral map looked strikingly similar to the last general election. Only two states that supported President Obama in 2008 - North Carolina and Indiana - switched to the Republican column in 2012 and Mr. Obama again won the popular vote.
Mr. Obama’s victory will not usher in a new progressive era in American politics, but his win proves that Americans largely prefer his moderate vision for the balance of the public and private sectors to the GOP’s anti-government crusade.
Aside from Mr. Obama, the other big winner in Tuesday’s elections was House Majority Leader John Boehner. Mr. Boehner is a moderate at heart and was stonewalled by Tea Party freshmen when he tried to reach a Grand Bargain on reforming entitlements and reducing the deficit with Mr. Obama in 2011. The results of last Tuesday’s election were a decisive blow for Tea Party ideology and should provide Mr. Boehner with the flexibility he needs to come to the bargaining table and seal the deal.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner’s main challenge will be to strike a deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of spending cuts and tax hikes set to kick in January. They have a mandate from the American people to come up with a balanced solution that includes new tax revenue (primarily from the wealthy), spending cuts and a responsible approach to reforming our entitlement system – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – without falling into an “austerity trap” like many European nations.
A Grand Bargain would represent a game changer for American politics that will put our economy and social safety net on sound footing for generations. With one stroke of the pen these two men have the opportunity to restore investor confidence in America and demonstrate to the world that the last four years of dysfunction and bickering - symbolized by the debt ceiling debacle of 2011 - are behind us. A Grand Bargain would also prove that America's two great political parties can come together for the betterment of the nation instead of engaging in counterproductive partisan warfare.
Thanks to Tuesday’s election these possibilities are closer to becoming realities and America’s future is looking better than it has in a very long time.
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