To accomplish the latter challenge, Obama must abandon the “my team-versus-your team” mentality that has so permeated his first term. Instead, he must honestly seek to strengthen the “our team” promise he made during his 2008 campaign, but quickly lost sight of once in office.
The president must be a coach and a cheerleader for our entire nation. His and the Democrats’ scapegoating and name-calling paid off in the general election, but such tactics wouldn’t have been enough to save him if Obama were the leader of a professional or college football or basketball team. No, in those arenas, we hold coaches to a higher standard. If one of them had four losing seasons, fans would be clamoring for a new leader — not handing him a costly new contract. The United States isn’t supposed to be a Cinderella team hoping to eke out a win every now and then. We’re the reigning champs — or at least we used to be — who need to be aggressively working to hold onto our title.
That hasn’t been the story of Obama’s first term. And, yet, despite a sour economy and painfully slow recovery, voters gave him another four years in office this week. Why?
Perhaps it was because the president’s campaign team amassed nearly $1 billion and focused much of it on bombarding key swing states with negative ads about his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. Maybe it was because too many voters, disenchanted with the two-party system or candidates themselves, either stayed home, voted for a third-party White House hopeful, or joined the far-right movement who believe both Obama and Romney are the anti-Christ and wrote in “Jesus” on their ballot for president.
Obviously, the less-than-charismatic Romney himself could have played a key role in Obama’s win. The GOP candidate failed to connect with many voters on a personal level, and many didn’t feel he adequately communicated his vision for America — relying instead on anti-Obama sentiment to carry him to the presidency.
That disconnect, whatever the reason for it, was clear even in staunchly conservative Franklin County, where Romney secured 63 percent of the vote compared to Obama’s 33 percent. Sounds like a landslide win, right? Not if you consider that in 2008 Republican John McCain — considered by many conservatives as an unacceptably moderate candidate — garnered 60 percent of the Franklin County vote compared to Obama’s 39 percent. That’s still an increase for the 2012 Republican candidate, but barely — especially considering Obama’s overwhelming local unpopularity.
On Tuesday, more Franklin County residents voted for U.S. House Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., in her race against a Democratic Topeka pastor than voted for Romney (7,427 compared to 6,893, according to unofficial vote totals). Why is that? Especially since most voters said they were drawn to the polls by the presidential election?
Obama, however, must begin immediately to pick up the pieces of this broken, divided country. He must be the leader he promised. And he can’t wait for inauguration day in January.
It starts with dropping the “war on women” and “vote with your vagina” nonsense spread so virulently throughout the campaign season. How can the Obama administration and Democrats expect to unite the country if they steadfastly maintain that Republicans are all male misogynists who want to take away women’s right to vote and remove their access to reproductive health care? Likewise, the president must halt his class warfare effort that seeks to pit Americans against each other. How can Obama promote unity, small businesses and job growth if he’s busy demonizing anyone fortunate enough to have found success during his administration’s first term?
The president easily could just write off the half of the country that didn’t vote for him. It would be tempting to gloat. Obviously, he didn’t need those voters to win re-election. And he probably believes Tuesday’s vote gives him a mandate to push forward unabated with the agenda he began four years ago.
But those who now are reluctantly beginning to accept the reality of Obama’s win still have real concerns about unchecked spending and executive overreach, the consequences of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, too much dependency on government and a variety of other issues that spooked them during Obama part 1. Those worries aren’t going to go away with Tuesday’s Election Night victory.
They’ll continue to grow and fester. Coupled with the existing partisan vitriol on both sides of the political aisle, it’s a recipe for a far worse gap between friends, family members and neighbors torn between relationships and their increasingly ingrained duty to shout down those who believe differently than them.
It’s time for compromise and reform — on education, deficit spending, entitlements, taxes, Social Security and Medicare and many other real issues important to voters of all stripes.
Obama wanted another opportunity to lead.
He now has it.
The question remains: Is he up to the challenge?
— Tommy Felts, managing editor