We are, a broad-minded left-leaning friend said to me just before the election, more divided than we have ever been — and the winner would have his work cut out for him.
Perhaps defying her hopes, the winner, President Barack Obama did not use his victory to heal the wounds festering for many years and exacerbated by his campaign, but instead acted to further those divisions. In the first month after his victory, he met only once with Republicans — and then in the context of a meeting with all congressional leaders.
He taunted Republicans on the fiscal cliff — and, more recently, on the debt ceiling. Save for his speech Election Night, he has not offered much in the way of conciliatory rhetoric. Nor has he made any significant effort to reach out to his partisan adversaries to find ways to work together.
He can make an attempt today, in his second inaugural address, to ease those national divisions simply by addressing them — and by acknowledging his part in furthering them. He could promise to devote the first part of his second term to working together with Republicans in the national interest, perhaps making a grand gesture toward reconciliation. He would have to show that he intends to do more than just express his commitment to confronting these divisions.
He could start by acknowledging the legitimacy of Republican concerns about the growing size of the federal government, the increasing burden of government debt and the stultifying effect of regulation.
Will he do this? The record doesn’t give us much hope that he would offer this change.