“We the People” may be a cantankerous, outrageous, contentious bunch at times — but, oh my, we surely do love our freedom! And the bedrock of freedom is the ability to vote. More than 100 million Americans went to the polls yesterday (or earlier in some states) to exercise their right to vote and fulfill the most important duty of citizenship. The vote for president was close, and many people thought we’d still be waiting to know the results this morning. In fact, the result was clear by midnight: President Barack Obama won the election, earning a second term in the White House.
Congratulations, President Obama!
One of the great strengths of our democratic process is the strong tradition of gracious, peaceful concession of defeat. Republican Nominee Mitt Romney stepped up to the moment last night, eschewing any thought of a protracted challenge to the election results in the so-called “battleground states,” and instead, he conceded the election he so dearly wanted to win. Thank you, Mitt Romney, for sparing the nation any extension of the bitterness of the campaign.
The electoral map tells us that we remain a deeply divided nation. The popular vote as of this morning looks very close, Obama with 59.3 million, Romney with 56.8 million. The electoral college votes are more decisive, 303 to 206. We can all give a sigh of relief that we did not have to revisit the mess of 2000, as some had feared, in which Al Gore won the popular vote but George Bush won the election after the Supreme Court awarded Florida’s electoral votes to Bush. That election remains a blot on the democratic process, and the fundamental problem of the electoral college in the modern age remains. A handful of states should not have such a powerful grip on the results of any national election.
President Obama deserves credit for even wanting a second term. The list of challenges we face as a nation is daunting; the prospect of four more years of a divided Congress is depressing. The People now expect the president and the lawmakers at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue to blow up the gridlock and find ways to work together for the good of the nation.
Commentators this morning seem to be in agreement that the pattern of the election not only for the presidency but also on various state races and referendums seems to be a repudiation of the most extreme ideologies — represented in the Tea Party, e.g., — that are a big reason for the gridlock on Congress. Let’s hope that the president and all of the elected officials now have the backbone to stare down the extremists and come together to fulfill their promises to achieve effective financial and economic solutions for this nation, to avoid the threat of sequestration and the “fiscal cliff,” to expand job opportunities, rescue homeowners, and rebuild the nation’s intellectual infrastructure through improving educational opportunities at all levels.
Much more to come in the days ahead. For now, whether you feel happy that your candidate won or disappointed that yours lost, let’s come together to celebrate the idea and the reality of the nation’s strongest, oldest democracy. Democracy won last night, and that’s the best possible result.
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See my take on the indictment of former Penn State President Graham Spanier “A Shadow Across the Soul of the University” in the Huffington Post