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Editorial: Now, Obama needs partner in progress

ElectiDay Chicago as voters do their civic duty Firehouse 2528 S. Throop vote for candidate their choice. Tuesday. |

Election Day in Chicago as voters do their civic duty in the Firehouse at 2528 S. Throop, and vote for the candidate of their choice. Tuesday. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:44AM



If your man gets re-elected, we recently asked a top aide to President Barack Obama, how will he accomplish anything in the face of continued unyielding opposition from House Republicans?

They’ll come around, the aide said, if only to save their own skins. Having failed in their most cherished goal, to make Obama a one-term president, they will warm to the art of compromise, fearing the wrath of the voters in 2014 if gridlock continues. They will discover their inner statesman.

As they say in church, let us pray.

As it happens, Obama is now a two-term president, pulling off a clean win Tuesday. And we sure hope a new spirit of compromise does indeed come to pass, though we see no signs of it. We trust as well that Obama — a little wiser and more realistic since his hope-and-change days of 2008 — will be a more effective manager of the legislative process, less lecturing and more hands-on. May BHO discover his inner LBJ.

Conservative pundits wasted no time Tuesday crediting Hurricane Sandy and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the president’s victory — all those great photo ops. But something deeper was at work; Americans bought into the president’s message — “We’re all in this together” — and those who have benefitted the most from living in this great land should also give the most.

As we look ahead to Obama’s next four years, we’ve got one word for Washington: Compromise.

Obama and the next Congress will govern a closely divided nation. Neither party will have the upper hand, and a sincere commitment to compromise will be essential.

If you voted for Obama, don’t gloat. If Mitt Romney was your man, don’t lick your wounds for long. Stick to your convictions, but remember that other good folks have convictions, too. Stand with the president if he’ll meet you part way, and let’s get the big jobs done.

The irony of the last four years is that everybody, Republicans and Democrats alike, agreed a crisis was at hand — on the federal deficit, on the growing cost of healthcare beyond the fixes of Obamacare, on the costs of Medicare and Medicaid. Ditto for the nation’s broken immigration system, its fossil fuel-dependent energy policy and its outdated education and transportation policies.

But for one reason above all — the extremism of the radical right wing of the House — little was done.

In Obama, we had a largely center-left president, one who by instinct looked to strike a deal. His one great partisan exception was to push through Obamacare in 2010 with virtually no Republican support, but only after it became clear the GOP would support nothing in the way of real health care reform.

But in the House Tea Party caucus, we had the tail that wagged the dog. Right-wing zealots, pledged to fight all tax increases, cowed more moderate Republicans, making bipartisanship and compromise dirty words.

If that does not end, this country is sunk.

Will the tail still wag the dog? We were not encouraged on Monday when House Speaker John A. Boehner said he’d refuse to back a tax increase even on people making more than $1 million.

Our nation is in desperate need of a grand bargain, one that combines increased tax revenues with bold spending cuts to gain control of the federal deficit and preserve Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, all without putting the economy into another tailspin.

And the hard work of bipartisanship cannot wait until Jan. 20, when Obama is sworn in for his second term. If nothing is done before then, the nation will drop off a “fiscal cliff” on Jan. 2. That’s when a drastic package of tax hikes and spending cuts kicks in, mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Nobody, left or right, wants that. And the Congressional Budget Office says it would push the nation back into recession.

In a big country full of competing values, compromise is the better part of wisdom.



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