Thursday, November 06, 2008

Now the work begins

President-elect Obama and the Congressional Democrats have a huge task ahead of them fixing things at home and abroad. There are two wars, a faltering economy and the need to restore the rule of law—and that’s just for starters. They’ll need our help and our support.

But we Democrats should also take a minute to remember what it feels like to be on the other side, because in my voting lifetime we’ve been there rather a lot. In 2000, I never took Bush seriously (my mistake, I know) and never thought he could win, much less that he would. In 2004, knowing what they knew, I was sure—certain—that Americans wouldn’t retain the Bush-Cheney regime.

So I personally identified with a comment I saw on a blog last night from a Republican who, while graciously congratulating the Democratic owner of the site, nevertheless said that Obama wouldn’t be his president and that he couldn’t support him. I felt exactly the same way in 2000 and 2004. But what if this time we make things different? What if, as Obama himself said repeatedly, we find common ground with our opponents? Wouldn’t that be a way to break the partisan deadlocks and move forward, together?

I’m not na├»ve, and I don’t expect that Republicans will support everything that the new Administration and Congress will do. There will be times when, as a matter of principle, President Obama and Congressional Democrats will have to move on without the support of Republicans, and for the same reason, Republicans will have to oppose the Administration and Congressional majority. That’s called democracy, and it’s okay.

But if we try and find common ground, imagine how much more America can accomplish. We mustn’t repeat the mistakes of the past, where the opposition was shut out entirely, and instead we must try and build bridges and cooperate and work together when we can. We’ve tried the other way, let’s try something new.

In the days and weeks ahead, this election campaign will be sliced and diced and examined like bacteria under an electron microscope. That always happens. And, I’ll share some thoughts of my own.

Today, though, I’m savouring the win, and having been part of history. It’s truly a fantastic achievement for American democracy and we should all be proud if it. Let’s start with that, then let’s start working on building the future together.

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