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The Speech that President Obama Should Deliver
A Call for Compromise
As the title indicates, the following is a “speech” that I think that President Obama should deliver now that he was won reelection. But since I am not a professional speechwriter, and I do not have the time to polish the language as much as would be done for a State of the Union or inaugural address, I am in no way suggesting that the President should use these exact words. If he is interested, however, I would be happy to hand over any of these words for a nominal fee and possibly a quick (and free) tour of the White House.
I do not necessarily believe that President Obama agrees with the opinions expressed here. I don’t know what approach to governing he will take in his second term. This is instead an expression of what I think he should do and say to get things off on the right foot. So without further ado, here is my fantasy kickoff speech delivered by our newly reelected President:
“The American people have spoken, and I have been given the privilege of being your President for the next four years. In those early moments of exhilaration after such a hard-fought victory, it can be tempting to view your success as a mandate, a stamp of approval from the general public for a job well done. And there is no doubt that there are many reasons for us Democrats to celebrate. We exceeded the expectations of many by winning the popular vote by a margin of roughly three million, were victorious in nearly every battleground state, made some gains in the House of Representatives, and retained our majority in the Senate.
But these statistics only tell half of the story. Sure, 50.4% of voters checked my name at the ballot box. But roughly 48% of voters chose my opponent. True, the Senate still has a Democratic majority, but Republicans have retained a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives. Clearly, the nation remains deeply divided, and when my second term begins, no political party will possess anything close to a dominant position. So only a fool could interpret the recent election results as a clear mandate supporting the visions of either party. But this is OK with me. As President, I have not been elected to represent the interests of my political party or of the 50.4% of Americans who voted for me. I am also pledged to serve all of those who chose not to vote and the roughly half of Americans who picked someone else.
There may be some in my party who disagree with this last statement. They may be hoping that I use these election results as political capital in order to push through whatever they may believe is the Democratic agenda. But as I have said many times on the campaign trail in reference to proposed tax plans and to our recurring budget deficits: you cannot argue with math. So long as the two houses of Congress are split, neither political party has any hope of passing legislation that achieves everything that they would like. Still, there may be some who believe that compromise is not an option, and I agree with them. Compromise is not an option. It is a necessity.
As Governor Romney and I battled one another on the campaign trail over these past several months, it was clear that we disagreed on many issues. What we shared, however, was a mutual recognition of the core issues that we must face. We agreed that the health care system must be improved, the economy needed to be stimulated, the tax code must be reformed, and entitlement programs must be made effective and solvent over the long haul. In my first term, I focused my energies on fulfilling the goals I presented to the people in my first campaign: financial stimulus, health care reform, and financial regulation. Due to the calamitous financial situation I inherited, reducing deficits had to take a relative back seat to propping up a fragile economy. But with the recovery well underway, and the country ready to go off of the so-called “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year, the time has come to take significant steps to get our fiscal house in order. And it is my sincere belief that there is plenty of room for Congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle to meet in the middle and reduce our deficits in a fair, balanced, and reasonable manner. To do anything else would ignore the will of the people, push our economy back toward the edge, and fail in our leadership responsibilities.
So in these next few weeks, I will lay out some specific ideas for deficit reduction. These will include reforms to the tax code in order to generate more revenue while also encouraging economic growth. There will also be plans for cutting spending through entitlement reform and reductions in discretionary programs. And while I remain committed to the need for expanded health insurance coverage and for regulation of the financial sector, I am also open to suggestions for ways to make existing legislation function better.
But before I present anything, let me make two guarantees. First, people from each side of the aisle are going to find some changes that they like. Both sides, however, are also guaranteed to find some things that they oppose. Such is the nature of compromise, and such is the nature of sacrifice. Anyone, after all, who believes that we can reduce deficits without a certain amount of sacrifice is not worthy of the position to which he or she has been entrusted.
These plans, however, are by no means a finished product. So I look forward to talking to Congressional leaders and advisors from both sides of the aisle in order to find ways that this framework can be improved. The clock is ticking, and the makeup of the voters and of Congress is not going to change any time soon, so what are we waiting for?
Four years ago, I came to the White House hoping that I could spur more cooperation between the two parties in Washington. Needless to say, things have not gone as well as I had hoped. For much of the last few years, our two political parties have spent a great deal of time, energy, and money engaged in the blame game. We Democrats have often accused Republicans of obstructionism, and Republicans have accused us Democrats of ramming legislation through Congress without any Republican support. My views on this recent history are well known, although I recognize, like all flawed human beings, that there have been times when I have could have done some things differently. But I am tired of the blame game, and I have no interest in battling over the past. Instead, I want to focus on the job at hand.
I have no more campaigns to run. I am not focused on what is best for my political party, approval ratings, or future job prospects. I am not interested in amassing credit for myself or assigning blame to my opponents in order to score some political points. If any member of Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, proposes ideas that will help break the gridlock in Washington and move our government and country forward, I will gladly give them credit. For too long, too many people in Washington have worried about the short-term electoral success of their party instead of the long-term health of the country. And when Congress has approval ratings of only 15%, it is clear that Americans of both parties demand productive action, not jockeying for position in anticipation of the next election.
Our founders, in their great wisdom, set up a system of government in which no one official could amass too much power. These three branches of government and numerous checks and balances can make it difficult to get things done, and as a man with personal experience can tell you, it can be quite frustrating. But that is the genius of the system. Decisions are deliberate, minorities can make their voices heard, and compromise is mandatory for getting things done. It is my hope that we can rediscover that vision once again and find some common ground. Our founders also believed, after all, that when the elections were over, Americans should come back together and make the best of the situation at hand. The time for campaigns, electioneering, and debate would come again in due course. But until that next election, leaders must remember that they are representatives of one people sent here to serve. And whatever happens over the next four years, I plan to be remembered as a leader who continued the legacy established by our founders. All I ask is that men and women of good faith join me in this endeavor.
So to those who voted for me, thank you for giving me the opportunity to finish what I have started. And for those who did not, I may not always agree with you, but I will do my best to earn your trust and respect. Thank you. Now let’s all get to work.”