With election over, will Obama bridge the divide?

The president has a full plate that includes budget reform, immigration policy, health care, war and financial industry regulations.

By The Fiscal Times Nov 7, 2012 12:45PM
The Fiscal Times logoBy Josh Boak

President Barack Obama returns to the White House, but he leads a country that -- after a bruising year of campaigning -- remains painfully fractured.

The results trickled in Tuesday night showing an almost impeccably engineered victory for Obama. He received an estimated 303 electoral votes, while Republican Mitt Romney managed to nab 206, according to the Associated Press. It was enough to secure victory without Florida—where Obama was maintaining a tight lead with the vote tally still incomplete.

When TV networks called the decisive battleground state of Ohio for Obama shortly after 11 pm, his supporters in Chicago's McCormick Place burst into applause as The Beatles' "Twist and Shout" played. The election was an endorsement of policies that had stopped a dangerous economic collapse, but left the country muddling through a recovery where millions are unemployed, trapped by underwater mortgages, and surviving on less income.

The polls consistently showed Obama possessed one virtue that Romney lacked—trust with voters, an ability to understand and empathize with their problems. This was not the transformative election of four years ago that was powered by the ideas of "hope and change," but a tactical exercise that drew on competing ideologies. Obama sidetracked his campaign with a lackadaisical performance in the first presidential debate, yet displayed his mettle as the New York City-area coped with the destruction of Hurricane Sandy.

"The task of perfecting our union moves forward," Obama said in his victory speech. "We are an American family. And we rise and fall together as one nation, as one people."

"Progress will come in fits and starts. It's not always a straight line. It's not always a smooth path," he continued. "But that common bond is where we must begin … And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you.

"Democracy can be messy and complicated," Obama said in a bipartisan appeal, "but these arguments we have are a mark of our liberty."

Ironically, the campaign that led to Obama's victory speech was one of calculated division. The president never bothered to contest vast swaths of the country like the Deep South, given his pillars of strength along the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Great Lakes. Negative ads attached to Obama and Romney filled TV screens.

The Obama campaign embraced an aggressive—some would say cynical--ground game to capture the 270 electoral votes needed to win, deploying scarce resources in a way reminiscent of warfare. Obama provided interviews to local TV stations for Election Day as volunteers knocked on doors and made phone calls to maximize turnout. The effort proved essential, with the president securing narrow margins in crucial swing states like Ohio and Virginia.

The exit polls revealed a painful ethnic split—with white male voters backing Romney by a significant margin and minority groups like Latinos and African-Americans standing by the president. Obama carried cities such as Cleveland, while most voters in the Buckeye State's exurban and rural counties sided with Romney.

Calls for bipartisanship are easy, both in triumph and the disappointing afterglow of a loss.
"This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation," Romney said in a six-minute concession speech. "The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can't risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people's work."

But the debate among Republican strategists that unfolded during the night was not about how to compromise with Democrats. It was about bridging the demographic divide in order to win in 2016, since the GOP base of white voters is shrinking as a share of the electorate. Romney notably alienated Latinos with a call during the GOP primary for the self-deportation of illegal immigrants.

"We're going to have an inter-party fist fight to find out how the GOP can be electable again," Republican consultant Mike Murphy said on NBC News. "We've got to modernize conservatism to fit with the demographics of 21st century, not the 1980s.  There's going to be a fight with the mathematicians (demographics) and the priests (ideology) over how to appeal to the country—immigration reform, gay marriage.  It's going to be a slugfest."

With Congress set to return to session, GOP lawmakers have doubled-down on their opposition to the tax increases being advocated by Obama as a way to reduce the budget deficit. The president campaigned on letting the tax cuts first introduced by George W. Bush expire for Americans earning more than $250,000 a year. Republicans—who retained their control of the House of Representatives—are determined to block that agenda.

House Speaker John Boehner said in a Tuesday speech that "our Republican majority has been the primary line of defense for the American people. "The American people want solutions and, tonight, they've responded by renewing our House Republican majority," the Ohio congressman said. "With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax rates. … We will never let you down."

The gridlock threatens the economy. Looming on the horizon next year is the fiscal cliff—a mix of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts—that if unresolved could hurl the United States back into recession. Both Democrats and Republicans called on the other side to compromise as the ballots were counted.

Former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs slammed GOP lawmakers for ignoring the negative public opinion about Capitol Hill. "When you're approval rating is lower than the national drinking age, you're not doing well," Gibbs said.

But second terms have been problematic for recent presidents who have also found their appeal flag. Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace after the Watergate scandal. Ronald Reagan muddled through the outrage provoked by the Iran-Contra arms deal. Bill Clinton was impeached. And Bush left the White House with the country reeling from the burst of the housing market.

Obama has said he will enact budgetary reform that trims the budget deficit, which has stayed above $1 trillion for his entire first term. He plans to reform immigration policy and bring combat troops back from the Afghan War. All the while, his administration will be implementing Obamacare and the new financial industry regulations from Dodd-Frank.
Karl Rove, famed as Bush's elections guru, summarized the challenge on Fox News.
"Second terms are difficult for presidents."

Josh Boak is a National Correspondent at The Fiscal Times. Subscribe to The Fiscal Times' free newsletter.

More from The Fiscal Times

Nov 7, 2012 5:24PM
Rethinking on dealing with Black/Latino/Minority and Youth... Education and Experience. Look at the History of the Irish in NY & Boston who rose and made something of themselves. Stop your whining and don't expect you are "entitled" to mooch off others who are themselves suffering. In short, get a job, go to school, and Get a Life.
Nov 7, 2012 2:28PM
It's up the divider and chief.   Nothing should move along until Obama submits a balanced budget.  The House must cut up Obama's credit card.   There will be NO DEBT CEILING INCREASE unless Obama submits a balanced budget.   And there can be ZERO tax increase except across the board.

The Democrats campaigned on ENDING W's TAX CUTS, LET THEM END.
Nov 7, 2012 9:13PM

Obama won by using the $3 trillion federal treasury revenues in adition to his $1 billion in reelection fubds. Polls indicated that jobs and the economy were the most important issues. They werent-no president has ever been reelected with such failed economic policies, high unemployment and dismal jobs forecasts as currently exist. People voted their own perceived self interests, Unions, minorities, people receiving government handouts, gays, women, government workers, including teachers unions were all cobbled together by Obama with the promise that there was something to be gained by electing him.They put their own perceived interests ahead of their own children and grand children. I say perceived because what they think they are getting is an illusion. This will become a reality whe the bill comes due for our borrowing and printing. As the coming recession deepens and people are unable to buy their cars and other products, union members will necessarily lose jobs, schools will close, joblessness will increase, especially among youth and minorities.

Obama used public funds to throw enough bones to disperate groups to forge a winning strategy.

Since ALL federal tax revenues at present levels go to mandated entitlements like social security and medicare, ALL other expenditures are borrowed.I doubt that any incumbent can be defeated in the future if they use public funds to buy the election.

Regardless of who won this election, the great divide exists in our nation and will be with us for many years to come. It is in the democrats best interests to maintain the divisiveness. However, i dont know if republicans have the stomach to stand their ground and not compromise on bad policy in the name of unity. They shouldnt agreee to ANYTHING that doesnt involve deep cuts in  federal spending, not just a slowing in the rate of increase in debt. The U. S. has a negative net worth of $40 trillion, conservatively, if you account for unfunded liabilities.



Nov 8, 2012 2:02PM
Such a stupid question. Obama bridge the divide? I hate him now more than ever!!! I don't think he even wants to try and get cooperation from conservatives anyway. Why should he?  He'll just do his best to make them look like they are the problem and push them out of the way. From my perspective, Obama and his like are destroying what used to be a great country. I hope he chokes on his stinky victory.
Nov 7, 2012 10:14PM
Don't know about bridging the divide, but he'll "have more flexibility"........
Nov 8, 2012 11:56PM
Democrats are the party of dependency and victimhood. They corner the market on welfare puppies, food stampers, subsidized housing, and never ending unemployment bennies. 25% of the tax payers pay 88% of the income tax. How can we stand a chance when the democrats offer more and more "free stuff" to the losers and dumb azzes? Democrats are the party of dumb azzes, freeloaders, tree humpers, union hacks, illegal immigrants, slut mommies, and gerbyl stuffers. Do you democrats ever pay for anything out of your own pockets?
Nov 9, 2012 8:45AM
All I see are higher taxes and less money in my pocket . The same thing that has been going on for the first 4 years of this commie bastard destroying the country. 
Nov 12, 2012 5:44PM
 TP and the rest of you yahoos! stay asleep at the wheel for me please. I hope you morons never learn a thing about the political landscape. Keep Foxnews on at all times please. Stay in your sleepy small towns and talk amougst yourselves and continue to listen to  rush limpdycks radio show. GOP just entered the political dark ages. see you in 2050.
Nov 9, 2012 2:27PM
The divide is between the taxpayers who support the rest of the country against the freeloaders and those that will never amount to much, and between those with solid traditional family values against those that don't. Obumbles has only made it worse.
Nov 9, 2012 1:29PM
I will take up one issue regarging John Boehner stating that there is a mandate to continue . Yes the American People elected Republicans to the House of Congress. They maintain the majority.. my point is only those within a congressional district vote for their Representatives not the entire American Public. So is this an actual mandate?
Nov 9, 2012 1:10PM
If Romney and the Republicans really know how to create 12 million jobs and fix this economy in 4 years, it would only be American for them to set an example by  "reaching across the aisle" and telling the rest of us how to do it. For some odd reason, I doubt that will happen.

Nov 8, 2012 5:42PM

Obama needs to thank Karl Rove, Trump, Rush, Hannity, Glen Beck,O`reilly,Ann Coulter

and the Koch brothers for opening their stupid mouths and making it easy for Obama to

get over 300 electoral votes.When the Dow is at 20,000 me and many others will thank

Obama in 2016 for making us rich.

Nov 8, 2012 9:46PM
Mirage dude!! Your right but wrong on one thing ! CONGRESS TAX AND SPENDS IDIOT.. Not POTUS ... And lets see if your republican house has the guts to not raise the debt limit thus stopping the FEDs from printing all this free money for wall street ! You know Ben and the boys ! The fed window on wall street! << Wake up and read your constitution dude..
Nov 8, 2012 9:49PM
I loved the FOX NEWs meltdown on election nite ! God it was great ! All their lies could not get them a win for the MITT WITT . Heck he diod not even win his home state Michigan and the one he was gov of  Mass GOTTA LOVE IT ..
Nov 7, 2012 2:07PM
Its up to the US House of rep... Are they going to stall everything like they have for two yrs...
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