President Obama declares victory Tuesday night in Chicago. Photo by George Zornick.
The chief problem of President Obama’s first term was the recalcitrant, sometimes rabid opposition from congressional Republicans and their allies. Such it was, then, that his victory speech Tuesday night—after he achieved a dominating re-election tally—was aimed directly at busting that logjam open:
[E]lections matter. It’s not small, it’s big. It’s important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won’t change after tonight, and it shouldn’t. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty…. But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future…. We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this—this world has ever known.…
That’s the vision we share. That’s where we need to go—forward. That’s where we need to go. Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It’s not always a straight line. It’s not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward. But that common bond is where we must begin.
Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together…. I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.
Reading between the lines, Obama’s message was this: Republicans declared from day one that their chief goal was to stop me. They didn’t. So now it’s time to actually get some things done. If you think about it, the campaign was largely based on this premise and embodied by the slogan: “Forward.”