The latest contests are behind us in the contact sport that is election politics. It is time to move on.
Americans fervently disagree, debate and then act on the challenges of the day at voting screens. We did that last week, deciding matters from who would sit in the White House down to whether Georgia should bring back a state commission on charter schools.
Tuesday’s election results show that we remain a nation divided along the brightest of lines. President Barack Obama saw a thin margin of re-election victory in the national popular vote. Here in Georgia, we remained reliably red, with Republican Mitt Romney garnering 53 percent of the votes.
Strongly held divergent beliefs are as old as American history or government, as the enduring nature of our two-party political system proves. The danger to effective governance and the republic itself comes when robust argument becomes the end-goal — rather than simply being part of the process of getting needed things done. This nation cannot suffer four more years of a partisan-powered standstill. There is too much to do, and no further time to waste.
That is why we believe Georgians, as never before, should embrace this state’s motto exhorting wisdom, justice and moderation in the days and months ahead. Hewing closely to those simple, profound words and the message they comprise will let Georgia live up to our calling and standing as one of the nation’s most influential states. We must do that, for ourselves, our children and the generations that will follow us. We can compromise, all of us, without compromising principle.
Georgia, and the rest of the South that worked and hoped for Romney’s success, must not now sit out the coming work that will determine to a large extent the future path of this state and this nation and the prosperity of both. We cannot be mesmerized into destructive inaction by the promise of a future election’s clean sweeping away of those with whom we disagree. Tuesday’s results showcase that risk. We cannot be left behind. Rather, we should lead the way, all of us.
Even in a hard-edged partisan day, we’ve seen examples of pragmatic political leadership that can reach across aisles to try to get things done. Georgia’s Republican U.S. senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, have at times shown a statesman-like willingness to do just that. Democratic Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Republican Gov. Nathan Deal have likewise locked arms in broad agreement on important matters. Former Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin also managed to engage in healthy bipartisanship without compromising party beliefs. We need more of that, particularly from Georgia’s Republican U.S. House members, who often seem more willing to recite party applause lines than to help lead us out of the current morass.
Gov. Deal and Georgia face a fast-coming test in how we will operate within the new political reality as it relates to Obamacare. States must decide by Friday whether they will set up their own online health insurance purchase exchanges or cede that responsibility to Washington.
Georgia must also decide whether to expand Medicaid to cover more of the estimated 1 in 5 residents here lacking health insurance.
The cost is not cheap, but as we’ve said here before, we believe the state and its citizens will get the best overall deal by proactively working within the law of the land, especially now that election results make “repeal and replace” unrealistic anytime soon.
If we stubbornly refuse to act on the current reality, our state’s taxpayers may end up shipping dollars to Washington to subsidize other states that have signed on to the changes. That should not happen. Georgia should act now and leave the prospect of dumping health care changes until the next election cycle.
As the nation struggles to find the right path ahead, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a powerful symbol of one side of Washington’s partisan gulch, offered a hint of encouragement in calling for broad-based action to move the nation back from pending fiscal disaster. In a speech Wednesday that held firm to conservative tenets, Boehner nevertheless said: “Let’s challenge ourselves to find the common ground that has eluded us. Let’s rise above the dysfunction, and do the right thing together for our country in a bipartisan way.”
Really, we have no other choice. In an oft-quoted 1858 speech, Abraham Lincoln warned , “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The New Testament offers an even more comprehensive caution: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”
We must stand in Georgia. We have fought too long for what we have gained to do anything else. We must stand as a nation, too, continuing to be that brightest of lights for an entire world.
Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.