Four years ago, Americans came to the polls and swept Democrats into control of the White House and Congress. It was a landmark and sweeping election of historic proportion.
Two years ago, citizens responded by organizing a TEA Party and took back the House of Representatives as well as some of the seats in the Senate.
Tuesday, Americans returned to the polls and reelected the president with turnout in some areas surpassing the 2008 fervor that elected President Obama the first time. They also reaffirmed the House majority. For at least the next two years, Americans have voted for divided government. Politicians of both parties should be very careful of interpreting this as a desire that they want our government to be divisive.
Despite retaining the House, Republicans are clearly the ones who came up short on Tuesday. Many were convinced there was no way they could lose. They did. The president will remain our president. This is now settled.
The Republican political class will now form a circular firing squad. It is how political operatives simultaneously project blame away from themselves while positioning themselves and/or their potential candidates for the next campaign. Non-politicians should not only avoid getting caught up in this inevitable drama, they must reject it.
Instead, they should take a good look at Chris Christie and his actions. Some began preemptively blaming him for Romney's loss before superstorm Sandy's winds had died down, saying he was killing Romney's campaign so he could run in 2016. See the above paragraph to understand those barbs.
But Christie should not be looked at because he needs to be the front runner for 2016. Despite the fact that pundits will be rushing to fill airtime with projections of the next horse race, Republicans need to look at next week, next January, and 2014 before they even begin to attempt what it will take to win the White House.
Republicans are at a point where they will have to convince a broad cross section of potential swing voters that they know how to govern. That they want to govern.
Christie can articulate what government should do and shouldn't do, but that's all about talk. Last week, Christie put the national campaign aside and did what he needed to do as governor of his state. He continues to do so. He doesn't look like a man who thinks government IS the problem. He looks like a man who understands what many of the problems of government are, and how to fix them. But last week, he also demonstrated that a Republican can make government work. That there are times when government must work. More Republicans should remind voters they understand this.
This is not to imply that the Republicans must roll over in the House because the president won re-election. Rather, there needs to be a true battle of ideas. Not recycled old ideas and stale talking points. Republicans need to present and defend a clear vision for what they expect the federal government to do and not do, and how it will be paid for.
Meanwhile, the president should pick up not where his divisive campaign left off, but where his 2008 campaign left off. He needs to speak less of revenge, and more of hope. He needs to surround himself with an inner circle that will challenge him and present alternating ideas. Most of all, he needs to form the relationships with leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill that most successful presidents have had.
The campaign is over. Before starting the discussions of 2014 and 2016, there must be time for governing.
Republicans need this time to prove they can govern, or have a real plan to govern if given the chance. President Obama needs this fresh start to become the president the country hoped he would be in 2008.
Many are unhappy about the election results. Many aren't. We remain a divided country, with a divided government. This doesn't mean the government we have can't work. There are many problems that need to be solved, and Congress returns next week to get to work.
The time for speeches is over. It is time for us to demand solutions.
The campaign is over. It is time to govern.
Charlie Harper, author and editor of the Peach Pundit blog, writes on Georgia politics and government; www.peachpundit.com.