Point of View Columns

The Day After the Day After

First there is a statement of contrition. Then there is the act of penance. These are very elementary steps on the road to salvation and renewal. And the day after the day after, President Obama has already manned up and taken these elementary steps.

At a post-election press conference he took the blame, admitted his shortcomings and acknowledged that his presidency had clearly frustrated and even angered a number of Americans. No statement of contrition could be clearer.

As an act of penance, even before the press conference, President Obama called the always tanned and newly lachrymose Congressman John Boehner (presumably soon to be Speaker of the House and third in line to the presidency) and Senator Mitch McConnell (who missed being Majority Leader of the Senate by an Angle and a witch), and expressed a desire to work with them. The fact that Congressman Boehner and Senator McConnell have stated that their primary legislative goal is to make certain that President Obama serves only one term absolutely qualifies these phone calls as true acts of penance.

The road to salvation and renewal in the days and weeks to come is going to be slightly more complicated and a hell of a lot more nuanced. There will be multiple autopsies of the election results and, to tell the truth, it is impossible to know where to go without knowing where you have been. But it is clearly time for some prospective thinking.

There are correctable missteps. It will be very important for President Obama and his Administration to clearly and constantly highlight and emphasize achievements. Americans must know of the bridges that are built, teachers that are hired, automobile factories that are staying open, previously uninsured men, women and children who now have healthcare coverage – all because of the Administration’s policies.

It is not enough to cite the statistics; the American public is easily distracted. The Obama Administration will have to show brick and mortar, flesh and blood, over and over again.

The devastation wreaked upon the economy has defied conventional solutions. The strategies implemented by the Obama Administration have prevented more damage and saved jobs but it is hasn’t repaired the damage and not enough jobs have been created.

It is very difficult to celebrate the rescue workers when the fire is still burning. It will be necessary to more clearly connect the dots between policy initiatives and the intended end result – new jobs, saved jobs, new housing, foreclosures avoided, new businesses started, existing business saved. President Obama and his Administration and his supporters are going to have to connect the dots every day.

Last point – democracy is not a spectator sport. Politics does not reward those who stay on the sidelines. The Tea Party may be odious and offensive to some, but some stayed on the sidelines and the supporters of the Tea Party worked hard and voted. November 6, 2012 is getting closer even as you read this column.

Unless we want November 7, 2012 to be another day of whine with no roses, the time to act is now.


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