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Kass: Current Fears Are Overblown

Fifteen months ago, neither the Democrats nor Republicans thought through the consequences of the partisanship. This time, they have clear knowledge of the potential adverse impact of stalled negotiations regarding the fiscal cliff.

Arguably, both parties are now damaged goods (though for different reasons) and have to prove that they can legislate for the common good rather than on partisan terms. They cannot afford to do otherwise; they are not likely to make the same mistake twice.

The 2012 Election

I have often written that our leaders have historically risen in times of crisis.

My bet is that having been disappointed once and with the domestic economic recovery still subpar, we won't be disappointed twice.

Again, the 2012 election was a win for the moderates on both sides of the pew. And moderation in the relationship, compromise and agreement between the two parties is my baseline expectation.

While the following New York Times editorial points to the Republicans' loss caused by party extremists, the Democratic Party's extreme left also held the responsibility for the closeness of the election until the very end.

No one can know for sure what complex emotional chemistry tipped this election Obama's way, but here's my guess: In the end, it came down to a majority of Americans believing that whatever his faults, Obama was trying his hardest to fix what ails the country and that he had to do it with a Republican Party that, in its gut, did not want to meet him halfway but wanted him to fail -- so that it could swoop in and pick up the pieces. To this day, I find McConnell's declaration appalling. Consider all the problems we have faced in this country over the last four years -- from debt to adapting to globalization to unemployment to the challenges of climate change to terrorism -- and then roll over that statement: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

That, in my view, is what made the difference. The G.O.P. lost an election that, given the state of the economy, it should have won because of an excess of McConnell-like cynicism, a shortage of new ideas and an abundance of really bad ideas -- about immigration, about climate, about how jobs are created and about abortion and other social issues.

It seems that many Americans went to the polls without much enthusiasm for either candidate, but, nevertheless, with a clear idea of whom they preferred. The majority seemed to be saying to Obama: "You didn't get it all right the first time, but we're going to give you a second chance...."

And that is why Obama's victory is so devastating for the G.O.P. A country with nearly 8 percent unemployment preferred to give the president a second chance rather than Mitt Romney a first one. The Republican Party today needs to have a real heart-to-heart with itself.

The G.O.P. has lost two presidential elections in a row because it forced its candidate to run so far to the loony right to get through the primaries, dominated by its ultraconservative base, that he could not get close enough back to the center to carry the national election. It is not enough for Republicans to tell their Democratic colleagues in private -- as some do -- "I wish I could help you, but our base is crazy." They need to have their own reformation. The center-right has got to have it out with the far-right, or it is going to be a minority party for a long time....

The votes have been counted. President Obama now needs to get to work to justify the second chance the country has given him, and the Republicans need to get to work understanding why that happened.

-- Thomas L. Friedman, "Hope and Change: Part 2," The New York Times (Nov. 7, 2012 op-ed)

Both parties find themselves in trouble, neither party is trusted (voter turnout was weak), and it appears they finally might/should recognize that the serious secular financial and economic problems should be addressed in a more bipartisan manner.

In the debt negotiations during the summer of 2011, the electorate was appalled by the partisanship and lost confidence in our leaders. They must earn that confidence back by resolving some of their differences. (They will have another two years before the 2014 elections to posture on a partisan basis.)

Republicans: The Republicans badly lost last week's election, an election they should have won. While maintaining control of the House, an unexpectedly poor showing in the Senate and a wider-than-expected loss in the presidency has seriously threatened the Grand Old Party. In the election, Republicans lost because they were hijacked by extremists. Incendiary remarks from Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, Richard Mourdock, Todd Akins and others contributed to the party's undoing -- even the much-admired Jack Welch's comments did more harm than good.

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