Obama Must Mend Divided Country, Seek Realistic Energy Policy
By Andres Cala
President Barack Obama renewed a powerful four-year mandate, sweeping the contested states and in so doing reshaping American politics.
It’s a stunning victory considering the stubbornly high unemployment and shrinking incomes for many Americans, not to mention Obama’s long list of unmet promises with his own constituency. But we’ll leave the political blame game to Republicans and the gloating to Democrats, and focus instead on the meanings behind the numbers.
Obama undeniably ran a more effective campaign than his challenger Mitt Romney in the coveted battleground states Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Florida. Including the Sunshine State, where Obama unexpectedly holds the lead, the incumbent will have secured a comfortable 332 to 206 electoral vote landslide.
Preliminary data shows one of the most important deciding factors was the Hispanic vote, which overwhelmingly supported Obama, as well as the middle class, women, minorities, and most of those struggling Americans who Romney unexplainably belittled.
Republicans have become a “’Mad Men’ party in a ‘Modern Family’ America,” as Matthew Dowd, a top adviser in the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush, brilliantly put it on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Or to put it another way, in the liberal-conservative divide, Obama more successfully attracted the growing numbers of independents who increasingly vote more for their pragmatic self-interest, than for ideological lines.
Romney and the Republicans expectedly secured their power base, but alienated those who simply want their daily lives to improve, regardless of their moral imperatives.
But the results also expose the country’s widening divide, reflected in the narrow two percentage point victory in the popular vote (50-48). That is, Obama more successfully attracted the independents, but half of the country is resolutely against his vision for America.
That also explains why Republicans retained the House and why Democrats will hold a thin majority in the Senate, insufficient in any case to push through any major reforms without Congressional approval.
What this all means
The first lesson is that the Republican Party must reacquaint itself with the country’s demographic transition. Middle-aged and elder white men are not enough and the party must balance its ideology with the pragmatic demands of independents.
Many people voted against what increasingly reads like radicalizing intolerance, as opposed to for Obama, despite the president’s inability to address the most pressing economic concerns of most Americans.
But it also means that Obama will not be able to push through the kind of ultraliberal agenda that he proposed at the beginning of his first term, not only because he lacks the Congressional muscle to do so, but because half of the country rejects it.
Obama’s priority thus is to unite a divided nation. There are plenty more issues to build upon, than those that divide, and the country’s well-being will depend on building on those commonalities.
And we can all agree on…
This brings us to energy. Most Americans agree this economy needs to pick up steam, and fast. It’ll be harder to agree on a fiscal path, not to mention the moral divide in America. Energy on the other hand offers a brilliant opportunity to improve the economy.
It’s encouraging Obama supports the natural gas industry, and increasing oil production in the country, both of which are being driven by private entrepreneurship in developing gas and oil shale reserves. Obama must also streamline approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to allow Canadian oil to access oil markets, while addressing the oil glut in refining hubs.
Improving fuel efficiency standards will also improve America’s long term energy security by rationally addressing oil demand.
But Obama must more boldly press on the energy front the kind of pragmatism that he so effectively capitalized on in the political arena.
America needs more nuclear energy; America needs to support the future of coal, even if it means subsidizing clean coal technologies; America needs to exclude ideology from its foreing policy, especially when dealing with oil producers, in order to decrease the geopolitical risk factors that are undermining oil production growth, and above all America needs a realistic policy on renewable energy.
Obama must drop the ideological hook of unconditionally supporting renewable energy. If America is to become “greener,” as Obama wants, it must be on economically feasible terms, not through limitless subsidizing.
The US needs more oil and more gas production domestically and globally. That, more than any other issue, will improve the economy and America’s national security.
Energy can realistically unite most Americans, but it will require that Obama levels with his constituency on the need to increase fossil fuel production. Under that premise, Americans will more easily accept the energy efficiency and the renewable policies that Obama defends.
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