Republicans and Democrats have a responsibility to find ways to govern our country in a nonpartisan manner. We cannot afford to live through four more years of Washington stagnation and obstruction. There are a number of issues that threaten our nation that can be rectified only if the major political parties join together and craft compromise solutions.
Yet, the onus is on the newly re-elected President Obama. The country needs him to be a leader for all Americans and to set aside personal agendas and old feuds. The alternative will be chaos and further weakening of our great society.
I have identified five areas that need nonpartisan attention immediately. These are issues where our leaders can prove, in a relatively short period of time, that they can do their jobs. The president must bring the two sides together, take on each of these problem areas, and make deals happen. Success will result in a resurgence of confidence in our government and a renaissance of American pride.
Five Ways Republicans and Democrats Can Work Together:
1) The Fiscal Cliff. By far, the most pressing issue is the fiscal cliff. It is a clear and present threat to our economy and financial stability. For anyone living in a cave, who is unfamiliar with this situation, it involves a massive tax increase for most Americans that will take us back to the rates that existed when G.W. Bush was president.
Additionally, defense spending will be slashed and draconian spending cuts to many social programs will be implemented. All of these measures will go into effect on December 31 if Congress does not extend the deadline (most likely to happen) or come together with a plan to increase tax revenues and cut spending.
In effect, the political feud between the president and Congress resulted in a very unusual deal in which Congress hung a “Sword of Damocles” over its members to encourage them do their job and negotiate a “grand bargain” that would address the nation’s national debt. The sword will drop if Congress does not act in less than two months.
The underlying issues of this dilemma are taxes and tax benefits received by Americans, and spending by the government. A massive increase in taxes in January 2013 would result in another recession according to almost every economist. Liberals want to exclusively increase taxes on those earning more than $250,000, something many conservatives have sworn to block.
Additionally, the elimination of certain tax benefits for high-income individuals could be a potential source of revenues for the government. These might include a reduction in the amount of untaxed medical benefits, charitable deductions, and mortgage interest deductions applicable to wealthy people.
It is the latter item that Mitt Romney stressed in his plan to balance the budget. Whether the amount of money that can be derived from these items is large enough to placate liberals, as they are asked to accept large spending cuts, is the question.
Regarding spending cuts, the proposed amount between the parties is a serious bone of contention. And, the issue is linked proportionally to the aforementioned tax controversy. It will take huge cuts to some very sensitive areas to reach a grand bargain that actually cuts into the deficit.
This is a challenge that our government must overcome. The national debt is becoming so large that it may impact future generations for years. By solving this problem alone, the president and Congress could regain the confidence of the American people.
2) Social Issues. Both political parties have used social issues to make points with their bases. This must end, and the country must move on to more pressing issues for our economy and our security. This is not meant to minimize the importance of social issues.
For instance, Republicans have taken an ultra-conservative approach to gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose. It has been a disastrous strategy that flies in the face of history and resulted in a massive problem for women voters in the recent election. I believe that a softer and more tolerant attitude by conservatives on social issues would have greatly increased Romney's chances in the 2012 elections.
The gay marriage crusade is making great strides across the country. It is only a matter of time before every American, regardless of their sexual preference, will have equal rights that include the ability to marry someone of the same sex.
Regardless of all the liberal bluster about turning back the clock relating to a woman’s right to choose, Roe v. Wade will never be overturned. It is baked into our society.
For both of the aforementioned issues, Republicans should back off, practice what they may in their own lives, and allow others to do the same. Gays rights and abortion have torn our nation apart for too long and Republicans have fueled these fires with their intransience.
Republican leaders should take these issues off the table and eschew the most radical people in their party. This will bring them great credibility with the electorate and eliminate two large areas that have interfered with more important business in Washington.
3) Filibuster. The time is right to finally eliminate this destructive Senatorial tactic that prevents the majority from effectively managing the country. It is the right time because the minority party has always objected to filibuster reform, but now, Republicans can block legislation with their majority in the House so the filibuster is not as important to them.
This legislative procedure is responsible for a great deal of obstruction and both sides should join together and reform it immediately.
4) Campaign Finance Reform. Both sides need to come to agreement about how to decrease the influence of big money in politics. It is unthinkable that billions of dollars are being spent on attack ads, lies and distortions. The tricky aspect of this problem is that SCOTUS has concluded that spending money on politics is protected by the Constitution. The two sides in Congress should find ways to decrease this problem while avoiding a constitutional brouhaha.
5) Jobs. So many of the horrible things happening in our country today would end or at least improve if more people could find jobs. Welfare would decrease, salaries would rise, tax revenues would go up, the stock market would go higher, etc. Job creation is the elixir that will heal many problems. The political parties must work together to improve the employment rate, even if it takes a massive jobs program to do it. Wealthy people in the country would be very supportive if their increased taxes were to be directed at this specific program.
The country is at a crossroads, it will either be bogged down in petty politics, or it will face the major problems of the day and regain its former greatness. Our government has not operated efficiently and has lost the confidence of the American people. Our leaders must step up now, cooperate, and solve some important problems. The alternative is another long and tedious four years.