It was early morning and the signs along Main Street were already gone, most of them, anyway. Only a couple of bent, blue McCain-Palin endorsements were still planted on front lawns. A day ago they were everywhere.
Gone too was the beat-up old white truck with McCain-Palin placards duct-taped all over it that had been strategically parked in the town square for the final weeks of the campaign.
The handful of Obama-Biden signs that boldly appeared in some windows and outside homes undoubtedly to the chagrin of stalwart Republican locals were all that remained as reminders of what had been.
It all seemed strangely subdued, almost as if nothing extraordinary had even occurred. Yet the most phenomenal, history-making presidential election in my lifetime had just ended, and although exhausted from the drama, excitement and emotion of the night before, I was bursting with exuberance.
For me, the election results were even better than expected thank you, Ohio and I wanted to yell and yahoo all over town or at least do cartwheels on the crosswalk and kiss the police chief.
As I drove the kids to school I was in high spirits until the kids booed.
They knew mom was in a celebratory mood and eagerly joined in the car-talk revelry. But when their happy chauffeur wondered aloud about the notably missing signs of the losing ticket, they started booing the bad guys.
To my grade-school passengers, the election their parents were so preoccupied with was just about winning and rubbing it in with the losers. Sort of like a political Super Bowl, I guess. But their innocent reaction to my admittedly unrestrained jubilance suddenly made my smugness seem small.
I heard myself quickly hushing the booing in the car and hastily explaining that people are allowed to have different opinions about issues and candidates and isn t it great that we live in a country where we are free to say what we think and support whomever we choose. I was about to add how boring the world would be if everybody thought alike when my bored audience bolted with backpacks flying.
But driving away it occurred to me that the success of President-elect Barack Obama to effect real change in America will ultimately depend on whether people with diametrically opposite philosophies and positions are regarded as allies or adversaries.
If Mr. Obama is serious about listening to those who disagree with him, no matter what side of the aisle they hail from, his daunting job of turning the nation around might be more productive.
Instead of building an ideological moat around the White House, like the current occupant, to exclude leadership of the loyal opposition, or summarily reject views out of lockstep with the administration s, a smarter approach to advancing common goals would be to make progress a collective project.
Invite the best minds with the best ideas to become part of the process of healing the country, regardless of political affiliations.
Compromise and consensus-building are not synonymous with capitulation and cop-out. But for six years, a Republican-controlled White House and Congress acted like they were, largely eschewing any policy collaboration with Democrats lest the GOP juggernaut in power appear weak.
For six years, President Bush had little trouble pressing his agenda with the rubber-stamp acquiescence of the GOP majority on Capitol Hill. Voters finally revolted to restore some checks and balances between executive and legislative branches of government, but without veto-proof leverage in the Senate, the White House continued to dictate policy.
Today the commander in chief who once promised to be a Uniter and not a Divider presides over a severely polarized us-versus-them America. The divisions among parties, politicians, and people have hardened to an ugly reality with no middle ground and no tolerance for those with different points of view.
At the tail end of the presidential race, three reporters who had been traveling with the Obama campaign for nearly three years were booted off the candidate s press plane after their respective newspapers endorsed John McCain for president.
I hope the apparent reprisals were an aberration by an exhausted campaign and no harbinger of things to come for critics of the new administration.
On election night a somber Mr. Obama spoke stirringly about the shared sacrifices and years of struggle ahead for the United States of America. But the new president-elect said he believed a country united could move mountains.
In his eloquent concession speech, Mr. McCain echoed his former rival s call to rise above that which separates us for the sake of the nation.
The Arizona Republican said whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans first, and no association means more to me than that.
In the early morning after the election that was, let there be no booing.
We who live, work, and raise our families together in small towns, big cities, and rural communities across this great land are better than that.
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