America’s need for direction

Shane Wade
Opinion Editor

Poll numbers are still coming in and the results of the 2012 presidential election are close, with President Barack Obama courting 50.2 percent of the vote to Governor Mitt Romney’s 48.3 percent, according to the Associated Press.

But while Obama supporters riot in the streets, Americans of all political parties need to ask themselves the same question:

Where do we go from here?

It’s not uncommon for incumbent officials to keep their seats (President Jimmy Carter notwithstanding). Americans aren’t quick to toss a president. It’s also common, however, for executive power to switch after that incumbent’s second term is over.

For Democrats, that means finding their new Obama as soon as possible. With the exception of the House of Representatives, where Republicans lead them by 41 seats, Democrats have done well this election. There’s a swath of viable candidates that’ll need to assert their credentials if they want to take up the president’s mantel in four years.

For the Republican Party, the answer is less clear and more dependent on whether or not they take their loss as an indictment of Republican policies and agenda or as a vindication of the ideas of President Obama.

If it is indeed an indictment, Republicans will once more be forced to challenge their current course and pump new blood into their core in the form of personalities, party leadership and policies. If it’s considered a vindication, then Republicans will be forced to distance themselves from the more extreme members of their party, including pundits and supporters, and move closer to the political center.

That might mean, unfortunately for them, cooperating with Democrats legislatively and supporting initiatives lead by President Obama, or at the least sponsoring alternative initiatives and programs.

For Republicans, it means becoming not only what they tout themselves as, a party of big ideas, but also a party of active ideas.

Unfortunately, old dogs don’t learn new tricks. The next few months could, and probably will, be a repeat of the typical do-nothing obstructionist Congress that Obama faced during his first term and politics as usual.

Contrary to what the hundreds of VCU students that gathered in Monroe Park last night would have you believe, President Obama’s re-election is not a transformative mandate by the nation. In comparison to the 2008 election where he received 52.9 percent of the vote, Obama just barely won. His re-election is less about America’s faith in his second term agenda and more about America’s fear of a Romney presidency.

That’s not to take away from Obama’s victory or his supporters, but it’s important to remember what was forgotten and ignored during the election.

It’s one thing for Romney, a conservative that doesn’t believe in climate change, to ignore environmental issues, but for Obama to do the same is, for many voters, irreconcilable. Neither politician addressed environmental issues beyond linking them to the economy, nor did they engage in a constructive discussion on how America would lead the world in reversing poor environmental trends.

Americans voted for the lesser of two evils last night. It’s disingenuous to think that Obama’s re-election victory was a rebirth of the original movement that brought him into power in the first place. The proof lies within that small percentage point difference in the electoral votes and the fact that his 2008 victory of nine million popular votes dwarfs his roughly three million popular vote lead this time.

We’re not living in a new America, but a progressing America, as evident through passed ballot measures in states that legalized marriage equality, like Maryland and recreational marijuana use (in Colorado and Minnesota).

Where we go from here is the decisive question for all Americans. While we’re certainly not regressing in terms of our social positions, we, particularly those within Congress, have not yet begun to seriously tackle issues in a collective manner.

To contrast with President Obama’s victory speech, for the most part, we are not all Americans. We are a nation artificially divided by our politicians, deeply in need of direction.

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