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The president needed not on the ballot

Published 10:44am Monday, October 22, 2012

Somewhere out there is the man or woman I would like to become our president. I do not know who this person might be, but I feel reasonably confident it is neither of the choices before us now. The United States has yet to produce the kind of president this country needs now.

Both are honorable and earnest men, either of whom could be a tolerable president. After all, we have already tolerated one of them. But I have been hoping for a candidate who is something more than tolerable. I have been watching for one who understands the will of the people better than we do ourselves and who can, thus, lead us together to become the nation we wish to be.

I am less of a mind to fault either President Barack Obama or Governor Mitt Romney than I am the political system we suffer. Further, I am less likely to fault the constitutional system per se than how we have corrupted it into what it has become today.

It is not that our government is too political, because politics is the only possible way to achieve consensus among the competing ideologies and interests of an exceedingly diverse citizenry. It is the art of the possible. It is a matter of doing the greatest good for the greatest number, but it is also doing the least harm to the smallest number. It is doing what we can with what we have.

The problem is that we have allowed politics to become a competitive game rather than a constructive process. It is fiercely partisan when it should be peacefully cooperative.

When Senator Obama, four years ago, asked us to vote for him, he promised he would bring the Democratic and Republican parties together and lead them to accomplish the best for the entire country. He did not say he would work toward this end or that he would do his very best to make it happen. He promised. He promised in such absolute and unequivocal terms as to be the ultimate test of his leadership. If he would fail, regardless of how hard he would try or how impossible the Republicans would make it, he would ipso facto become disqualified from re-election.

He failed. Neither Democrats who excuse his failure nor Republicans who exploit it disagree on the fact as president Barack Obama filed to unite these parties into accomplishing national goals. Obama failed, that’s all there is to it. Candidate Barack Obama failed as president.

I can give a long list of factors that contributed to this failure, and I think most of us can. But he did not make his promise conditional upon these or any other factors being favorable. He made an unconditional promise, and he failed to keep his promise.

If the Republicans in congress had cooperated (which they certainly did not), the parties could have acted united. But unilateral cooperation by the Republicans would have meant the Republicans would have accomplished the unity Obama promised he would. I am at a loss to identify any initiative Obama took that could reasonably have predicted response by the other party. On the other hand, he said or did a number of things that discouraged response. At times at least, he seemed to expect the Republicans to abandon the political platform on which they ran and, in effect, cross the aisle and become Democrats.

Nonpartisan cooperation does not mean one party wins and the other loses. It means both parties adopt together whatever is best for the nation, regardless of whose idea it was or who has promoted it. The world has yet to see what can be accomplished when American political parties don’t worry about who gets the credit. They need to stop thinking and voting as Republicans or Democrats and start thinking and voting as Americans.

As something of a pundit sitting on the sidelines with no political responsibilities and obligations, I recognize this is easy for me to say. It is, of course, a truism, and no one would be willing to say he or she disagrees with it. Nonetheless, we have elected not only to the White House but to the Capitol those who act every day as if their party has priority over the nation.

Voting for the best possible president seems not to be an option next month. I will vote for the man whom I feel is the more likely to come the closer to becoming the president we need.


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