Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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Election had a lesson that shouldn’t be lost in aftermath of the vote:

More than status quo

Since Tuesday’s vote, the consensus of the political analysis is that no one emerged with a mandate and this was a “status quo” election — the White House, Senate and House of Representatives remained the same.

In Nevada, Democrats remain in control of the Legislature. In Clark County, voters returned incumbents on the commission and the School Board, and they declined to give more money to pay for school renovation or to keep Henderson libraries open.

So, things essentially are back to the way they were before the election, but don’t take that to mean that the status quo is acceptable anymore. Voters want to see things get done, but they’re more moderate than many people have made them out to be.

Remember, conservatives made this election out to be a referendum on President Barack Obama and the Democrats. They took the House of Representatives in the 2010 election, which they saw as a rebuke of Obama. They believed the public endorsed their policies and gave them a mandate. But the mandate they claimed didn’t hold up, and the momentum they thought they had?

Well, they started the year talking about taking control of the Senate and, up until Election Night, were incredibly confident they could beat the president; they did neither. Although they kept control of the House in this election, they saw an erosion of support. Some political analysts say they would have lost more seats if not for favorable maps drawn during redistricting last year.

But there was more to this election than the number of seats and the control of Congress. For the past two years, Republicans have painted a harsh narrative that the president and Democrats were leading the country down the road to ruin, which was the Republican excuse for its obstruction in Congress. (They had to stop the Democrats!) The narrative became divisive as they split the public with talk of “makers” versus “takers” and derision of the “47 percent.”

The GOP failed to find a majority to support its narrative, which surely alienated many voters, and since the election, Republicans have struggled to find a response. They can’t go out and bash the president or make wild claims about his policies after the voters returned him to office.

On Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, explained the election this way:

“If there is a mandate in yesterday’s results, it is a mandate for us to find a way to work together on solutions to the challenges we face together as a nation.”

That’s a fair assessment. Americans don’t want to see more of the hyperpartisan gridlock that has gripped Washington for the past two years.

The mandate to work together was something that both Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney alluded to during heartfelt speeches on Election Night.

Romney said the nation “can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing” and said leaders “have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”

Obama downplayed the divisions exacerbated in the campaign and emphasized the nation’s “shared destiny.”

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests,” he said. “We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”

The question now is: What happens in the days and weeks to come? Do the sober post-election thoughts make any difference when the president is sworn in early next year? Does it change the tone in Washington and throughout the country?

We hope so. The great lesson of this election may be that, no matter our political philosophies, we’re all in this together and that if elected leaders don’t do something different this time around and get things done, the results may be much different in the next election.

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