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Obama, GOP can find reasons to work together

Nov 14, 2012 - By The Dallas Morning News Services

So for all that cash (billions) spent to fund all that campaigning (relentless) and all those ads (millions), what do we get? The same president, the same party running the House and the same party running the Senate.

And the same problems confronting a divided nation, chief among them an inability to achieve solution through common-sense compromise.

Yet a second term for President Barack Obama does not have to yield the same pitched partisan warfare, dispiriting gridlock and economic stagnation.

Obama and the Republican challenger he defeated, Mitt Romney, touched on important themes of bipartisan cooperation in their remarks early Wednesday. Yes, political candidates, in victory or defeat, usually reach out to the opposition in the blush of voter decision.

Why should we expect any different now? Consider the motivations.

Obama won the Electoral College decisively. A tactically superior campaign strategy produced narrow triumphs in critical swing states, but fewer Americans voted for him than in 2008, leaving him short of the mandate he sought.

Importantly, he'll never again run for re-election. This puts him squarely in legacy-building mode, and if his inspiring pre-presidential words are a guide, he wants that legacy to be of a president who accomplished big things for the nation through persuasion, not force.

Republicans should be chastened after four years of fierce combat that often strayed into obstructionism. Spurred by a noisy tea party wing, they gained control of the House and little else, certainly not the White House. Their push to take the Senate this year actually left them with fewer seats.

They enter a needed period of soul-searching and must consider whether their rigid ideology and inability to broaden their reach is a sure and certain path to irrelevance: increasingly older, male and white in a nation that isn't.

The tasks ahead could prove daunting. The fiscal cliff hits almost immediately, with its sharp rise in taxes and slashed spending. The government is close to exceeding its debt ceiling again. Unemployment remains too high, a drag on economic recovery. Entitlement and tax reform are at once logical and distant. The same for immigration reform and a national energy policy.

Neither party has all the answers. Each has some, with the truth usually somewhere in between. By working together, they actually could achieve more.

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