Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

November 14, 2012

An opportunity for national leadership

Greensburg — By now, just about every angle of the 2012 presidential election has already been considered.

Pundits argue about why the loser lost, forgetting that it was a close-run thing, hardly the seismic shift requiring a fundamental re-thinking of the Republican identity.

One of the motives for rushing to explain what happened is to clarify what the winners should do next. What message did the voters send to them? It is by no means clear. Neither party received a resounding mandate. In the absence of direction from the voters, the winners will simply have to exercise leadership.

Few experts deny that the country faces extraordinary threats to its financial well-being. The candidates did not even try to disguise the scope of the problem; instead, they proposed different ways to solve it. And now, voters have sent them back to Washington with mixed signals.

Either side could claim that the election affirms them in their position. Yet representatives of each party have made noises about working together and finding a way out of the morass. We will see. In the meantime, my Human Resources office has notified me about the extent to which my taxes will rise in January if Congress does nothing.

Many of my own compatriots reacted to Obama’s election as confirmation that there is no solution, but if there had been one, the voters more or less told Obama to drive the bus over the cliff. I don’t think anybody thought that consciously. I do think plenty of voters do not really understand the financial situation. Again, politicians are now responsible for exerting leadership.

If either side capitulates completely and gives in to the other side without gaining anything in return, a lot of officeholders will lose their jobs next time. They have to win something for their constituencies. By the same token, if either side digs in, even if they allege it’s a matter of principle, and refuses to budge one inch, then what hope is there of resolution?

Right now, as President Obama contemplates his legacy, he might reflect on the fact that Richard Nixon – yes, Richard Nixon – went to China. Only a red-baiting McCarthyistic Cold Warrior could have pulled it off. He had established his bona fides earlier.  That gave him the room to do something contrary to type. In a tattered tenure, this was possibly his finest moment.

Perhaps now, without a clear mandate to do much of anything in particular, the president might exercise leadership by working against type, disavowing the sacred cows on the left, showing that he can rise above ideology. It won’t hurt his re-election. And if he does it soon, the sense of betrayal on the left will dissipate later anyway.

It is an ancient lesson from Daoism that the sooner you confront a problem, the easier the work to prevent or resolve it. Nip it in the bud. Get in front of it. Don’t wait for a crisis. It is my hope, based on very little evidence, that the leadership on both sides will finally act like leaders. Call it faith.

 

1
Text Only
Columns
  • Why government openness matters Failing to share information makes us weaker. It enfeebles congressional oversight, which is a cornerstone of representative democracy and which, when aggressively carried out by fully informed legislators, can strengthen policy-making.One of the fun

    August 21, 2014

  • Ferguson is Everytown, U.S.A. The tragic killing of college-bound teenager Michael Brown has raised questions about the frequency with which police kill unarmed black men in America. The answer, unfortunately, is far too often.Just three months ago, on a warm April afternoon, a w

    August 21, 2014

  • Walking makes a comeback Just a few years ago, the idea that we could have a national conversation about walking might have seemed unlikely. After all, we’ve been walking forever. What’s there to talk about? As it turns out, plenty. As a number of groups cite a range of reas

    August 21, 2014

  • nei-gb082014-linda kennett column pic A collecting bonus? It's in the cards Remember the packs of sports trading cards from the 1970s and 80s? I recently stumbled across several boxes of them that I thought my son had taken when he bought his first home 15 years ago. But there they were, still in the closet and mixed among t

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • nei-gb082014-homemakers column file photo Summer has flown by It seems summer is nearly gone. The State Fair is over, the Power of the Past is gone for another year, and the children are back in school. It may be time to think about getting involved in making and donating some items for Riley Hospital. We alw

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pat Smith: Goofy golf raises breast cancer awareness Last week I stopped in to ask Susan Doerflinger Burkhart to please interpret a letter I received from an insurance company I had two or more years ago. As usual, she was able to ease my mind. While there she asked if I was going to play in the all-fe

    August 20, 2014

  • Craft brewers, vintners bring spirits to State Fair Brad Hawkins felt right at home hawking his beer at the Indiana State Fairgrounds last week.When Hawkins opened his Salt Creek Brewery in a converted filling station in tiny Needmore three years ago, some tee-totaling neighbors protested he was putti

    August 19, 2014

  • Back to the classroom These days, it seems like the summers are going by even faster than they did when I was a student! Just yesterday, the temperatures were beginning to warm up and children were hanging up their backpacks. Now, many of them are already back in the clas

    August 19, 2014

  • Our children and their children Let’s ponder “our children” and “their children.”First, Gov. Mike Pence made a wise call this past week when he ordered the Department of Child Services to begin reimbursing families who had adopted special needs children.A class action lawsuit filed

    August 19, 2014

  • Remember the joy Williams gave Ball State’s Wes Gehring, the author of dozens of books on Hollywood stars, says the apparent suicide of Robin Williams will not tarnish the comedian’s legendary achievements.Williams was found dead Monday in his California home. He was 63.“As the li

    August 16, 2014