Winning the Job and now Doing the Job
Only time will tell how history treats the days of The Decider. And only time will tell if this is the pivotal election that many people hope it to be – has this guy really caught lightening in a bottle.
We can take comfort in the fact that we’ve just experienced the 44th generally non-violent transfer of power in this country. This vision of the democratic process playing out before the world displays some of the best of America: two truly exceptional men of character who fought the good fight. I was proud of the grace and strength shown by my U.S. Senator in his concession speech. I woke up Wednesday morning to emails of congratulations from friends in no less than six nations. The global interest is humbling and not to be taken for granted. This more perfect union may in fact be more perfect today. Now we need to take advantage of the global and domestic interest and engagement that we’ve generated. We’re part of a public participation organization and network that knows how to do that.
We deserve our euphoria and we have a right to celebrate – or grieve, but only briefly. I don’t wish to diminish the historic inclusive symbolism of this election or the hope that it represents for this democracy, but we woke up on Wednesday with the same problems that were there Tuesday night. As my mom used to say, “Things are hardly ever as good or as bad as they seem to be.” Now we have a future to improve, difficult decisions to make, and a legacy to build, and we’ll be far better off if we do it together.
On Tuesday, November 4, 2008, a great number of people were engaged in this democracy and to fix our problems and make these tough decisions we’ll need to stay engaged.
Americans have traditionally fixated on winning at all costs – no compromise. It’s how we initially won our freedom and defended it for ourselves and many other nations in two world wars.
An older generation of Americans – understandably – know no other way. The past consequences of losing were clear. We’re a nation of winners where wars and sports are typically easily defined. We’ve engaged in politics and public policy the same way – win or lose, my guy or your guy… red or blue. But we’re now entering a new time when the benefits and consequence of consensus needs to be considered by a new generation as importantly as the consequence of loss.
Partisan politics and electioneering will likely remain part of our culture, but evidence suggests that new generations are considering different priorities and different values. Regardless, things are going to change and it will help to find ways of tempering the pain of that change.
We’ve hired new leadership and in two and a half months when he moves into our nicest public housing project he’s going to need a ton of help. A newly engaged public has the ability to muster tons. That engaged public has the ability to turn our economic, environmental and energy problems into economic, social and business opportunities of gargantuan proportions. An engaged public has the ability to find the $1.6 trillion that the American Society of Civil Engineers says is needed to maintain an adequate public infrastructure. An engaged public has the ability, as John McCain said Tuesday night, “to find compromise and bridge our differences.”
There has been less interest in engaging the public these past eight years and the resulting divisiveness has created petty, ugly, vicious exchanges and political and social gridlock. Tuesday night Barack Obama said, “This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.” In the next eight years we have to find ways to involve all the governed in their government to build consensus, find common ground, and rebuild trust in a system that still obviously inspires hope in the world. Just take a look at my inbox.