Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obama Mandate: Post-Partisanship

On Election Day, Barack Obama canceled a fireworks display for the Grant Park rally that night, a sign he wants to leave the long campaign behind and start governing, something the Bush-Cheney-Rove Administration neglected to do for eight years.

Governing, but how? Tuesday's victory margins clearly were a mandate to change the bitter two-year stalemate of tenuous Congressional control by Democrats and a stubborn, veto-wielding White House.

"Obama's ability," Dan Balz notes in the Washington Post, "to manage relationships with Democratic congressional leaders, with Republicans and with impatient liberal constituencies with agendas of their own will have a lasting impact on his presidency. Can he, for example, fulfill his promise to govern in a unifying and inclusive way yet also push an ambitious progressive agenda?"

That may be the wrong question. "Ambitious progressive agenda" still sees the American crisis through the left-right lens of eight years that led to abysmal approval ratings and voter revolt against Washington politics.

In the afterglow of his historic breakthrough, the President-Elect has an opportunity to test his consensus approach to governing by bringing the decimated Republican opposition into a process that goes beyond scoring political points for the next election cycle and attacks problems in some semblance of bipartisanship.

He has the chance to demonstrate the difference between consensus and caution by showing that leadership can go beyond "agendas" and begin to find solutions.

If that sounds naïve, so be it. Obama has rehearsed overcoming that charge in two tough years of campaigning. Let's see what he can do with it in the real world.

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