Whatever the outcome of the 2010 mid-term elections, it is clear the U.S. government will have significantly changed since 2008. Within the executive branch there have been numerous resignations of senior officials including the president’s chief of staff, national security advisor, senior economic advisors and soon his chief political strategist as well. On Capitol Hill, the Republicans will most likely hold a majority in the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate as well.
Change of this magnitude is a good opportunity to take stock of what is working and what is not. The following is a set of recommendations for our new government. Going forward, Democrats, who will bear the brunt of this change, should empathize with their opponents and accept the fact that people will disagree with them. Republicans should stick with their principles and continue to support the president on Afghanistan, and finally President Obama should exert some old-fashioned patriotic optimism.
Every day, in universities around the world, the wisdom of Socrates, Cicero and other thinking titans are questioned, analyzed and critiqued. Surely if their arguments can be criticized, the logic of the 2010 Congressional Democrats is not above reproach. For the past two years Democrats in power have given the impression that they believe Americans who disagree with them must either be too stupid to understand their arguments or have an ulterior, sinister motive. Our own Congressman Anthony Weiner’s statement regarding the opposition is an example: “Make no mistake about it. Every single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.” This sounds less like the discourse of an elected leader from the most powerful nation on earth and more like the rabble of a protesting college student. Obviously in a country of 300 million people there can be serious disagreements on the best way to provide health care. To confront the challenges facing U.S. policy, recommendations from all sides will have to be listened to and probably adopted. Acknowledging the credibility of the other side’s argument is a good first step in restoring the reasoned disagreement within the halls of Congress. By demonizing the other side, the best anyone can hope for is to rule by a 51 percent majority. It will take more support than that for any government to see the country through our current crises.
During the Bush Administration, Congressional Republicans were largely supportive of the idea that the Taliban should not regain control of Afghanistan. This support carried over to President Obama after his election and has been holding steady throughout the president’s first two years in office. It is important for the security of our country that Republicans maintain that support. It is probably true that a majority of support for Obama’s Afghan strategy is coming from Republicans. Unfortunately, it is plausible to see the misbegotten path Republicans may choose. In the name of reducing the deficit and scoring political points against an unpopular president, Republicans (especially new Tea Party members) may begin seriously criticizing President Obama’s Afghan strategy and force the president to withdraw U.S. troops from the country prematurely. In reality, the deficit would be virtually unaffected and the Republicans would justifiably be open to charges of hypocrisy. Worse, the Taliban would obviously invite Al-Qaeda back in creating the same state that existed prior to September 11th, 2001. If anything, Republicans should highlight their previous and continued support for Obama’s Afghan surge publicly. This is the only issue currently enjoying bi-partisan support. As long as President Obama’s current policy continues, it is up to Republicans to keep it bi-partisan.
Lastly, President Obama needs to display optimism. If President Reagan created a new “morning in America,” President Obama is presiding over “mourning in America.” He should drop all the rhetoric that the United States is just another nation and remind Americans that we are the greatest nation on Earth. The Obama supporters in downtown Chicago on Election Day 2008 and the Tea Party have something in common – they still believe in the American dream. President Obama can use this to his, and the country’s, advantage. Enthusiasm for the United States still exists in the hearts of her citizens. The question is whether or not the president is willing to tap into it. No doubt, the challenges facing the U.S. are daunting: real unemployment is probably closer to 20 percent than 10 percent, and there is a multi-front war and a fiscal crisis that may literally destroy the U.S. economy. President Obama should take a few pages from his own biography and remind Americans that there is virtue in the struggle. Glory and honor do not come from the outcome; they are earned in the daily grind. The president should remember the U.S. has a history of overcoming the odds. The U.S. did not come into existence after the Battle of Yorktown; it was formed at Valley Forge. Unity can be the offspring of suffering, but it requires leadership to show Americans how we are all in this together. We can turn this period of time into a moment Americans are proud of. Future generations can look back and say, the millennial generation did their duty: they kept America prosperous, free and full of virtue.
Come November 3rd we will have a new government once again. In 2008, and again this year, the American people have spoken out against the direction the U.S. is headed. Our leaders must summon the better angels of their nature and lead us through our current tribulation. This is what I hope for the day after tomorrow.