MAKING POINTS - So Barack Obama will serve another four years as President of the United States. It’s not the beginning of the end for our great country. And it wouldn’t have been a disaster if Mitt Romney had been elected.
During campaigns candidates say whatever they have to in order to get elected. As the old saying goes, “Losers don’t legislate.”
Winners develop talking points that are heavily based on polls that tell them what is most important to the voters. That’s why, in past mayoral campaigns, we’ve seen candidates devote a significant portion of their time to problems over which they have little influence, such as schools and the economy.
Losers boldly talk about the tough decisions that are ahead of us, and propose solutions that are certain to be unacceptable to some large demographic groups. Just ask George McGovern, Barry Goldwater, and Eugene McCarthy who hold most of the records for the worst losses in presidential elections.
Except for an incumbent, getting a party’s nomination to run for president involves a delicate dance. Candidates have to appeal enough to party extremists in order to get the nomination.
Once the Republican and Democratic candidates have been determined, the campaign becomes a battle for the middle. After eliminating those who religiously cast votes based upon political party affiliation, candidates have to package themselves as moderate and stable leaders in order to appeal to the middle.
That helps explain why Mitt Romney had at least two positions on every major issue.
After being elected for the first time, the new president’s focus is on re-election. The goal is to avoid doing anything really wacky.
Our country’s system of checks and balances gives Congress and the Supreme Court the ability to prevent any president from becoming a despot.
Another moderating factor is the sobering reality of being the most powerful governmental leader in the world.
Often promises that sounded good during the campaign come face-to-face with the real world choices presented by cabinet and staff.
And finally there is the desire by every president to carve out their place in history.
I’ve lived under 12 presidents, from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan, and none of them ruined the country or brought with them the parade of horribles predicted by their harshest critics.
During my lifetime, I guess the closest we got to disaster due to bad decision-making was the place where the economy ended up under George Bush in 2008.
All the presidents loved their country. The difference is the way they showed it. If there was one right way to show that love, that’s the way they’d all do it.
So fear not the next term of Barack Obama, or the presidents who follow him. We will never be a perfect county, but we will always be the best one on Earth.
The big unknown is how the Republican Party will now respond. As Ed Rollins, Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager, said on election night, “The Republican Party can no longer be the party of white southerners.”
If there was a clear mandate, it was for an end to the divisiveness, and for party leaders to come together as President Obama and Governor Christie did when lives were at stake.
Republicans need to decide if they will set as their goal working with Democrats to help the economy continue to improve, or become obstructionists so that the nation’s economy will falter and voters will turn to the Republican candidate in four years.
In essence, how great a price are we all willing to pay to have a Republican president?
(Greg Nelson is a former general manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, was instrumental in the creation of the LA Neighborhood Council System, served as chief of staff for former LA City Councilman Joel Wachs … and occasionally writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)