The mandate of the middle
President-elect George Walker Bush has a historic opportunity to lead the nation based on the real mandate the American people have sent to Washington: a mandate of the middle.
It is a mandate to heal wounds and reach across party lines, to bring into his government authentic voices of the loyal opposition, and to ask of the opposition an equally authentic spirit of cooperation to govern from the center.
We might look to the brothers and sisters in the Senate to help in this venture. Who isn't moved by the spirit of patriotism, independence, and respect shown by the Senate war heroes who soar above party lines and regard each other as brothers in arms in service to the country? John Kerry and John McCain, Chuck Hagel and Max Cleland embody a spirit of mutual respect and political independence that is a model for patriotic Americans translating heroism in war to civic duty in public life.
Similarly, one of the most influential groups in government will be the women of the Senate, representing diverse backgrounds.
These stateswomen embody the highest ideal of achievement and a spirit of community far wiser than the tribal political warfare they have risen above. Relationships between leaders such as Dianne Feinstein (D) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) are not only models of cooperation in public service but also represent a can-do spirit that is as important as ever.
Brent Budowsky is a Washington-based entrepreneur, and was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) of Texas.
A leap across the 'grand canyon'
The past eight years - no matter which side of the fence they're viewed from - show old divides dramatically deepened and new ones created.
My friend Charlene brought down the wrath of her entire family when she expressed her opinion that our impeached president was not worthy of his office. Come to think of it, my own in-laws haven't been too happy with my husband and me for 13 years - since we stopped subscribing to Mother Jones and picked up National Review.
And if the Clinton era has carved a grand canyon between liberals and conservatives, the past six weeks have pushed a few over the edge - into hyperbole and hatred. Jesse Jackson compares Miami to Selma and the Supreme Court's decision to Dred Scott. My son's high school teacher (an attorney, no less) calls George W. Bush a "scumbag" in class, without apology. Well-coiffed women in expensive SUVs holler obscenities at my husband as they zoom by. His crime? A Bush sticker on his truck.
I want to say to them, "You know, we all tuck in our children every night and hope for a better world. We all laugh when we're happy and cry when we're sad. Most of us try hard to be the best we can be."
Whether you voted for Bush or Gore, for vouchers or none, whether you're gay or straight, pro-abortion or pro-life, I know if we sat down for a few minutes and talked, we might actually find things we like about each other.
Barbara Curtis is a freelance writer in Petaluma, Calif.
The lessons of Hayes-Tilden
The disputed Hayes-Tilden election of 1876 makes 2000 pale by comparison. It was truly filled with corruption, conspiracies, and near civil war.
The critics notwithstanding, the relative success of President Rutherford B. Hayes's administration flowed from a back-room deal. A Republican three-time governor and former Union major general, Mr. Hayes took into his Cabinet a moderate Southern Democrat, Sen. David Key of Tennessee. A former Confederate colonel and strong supporter of Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden, Senator Key was given the powerful patronage position of postmaster general.
Hayes ended federal occupation of the South, eliminated most of the corruption of the Grant administration, and introduced civil-service reform. With Key's help in the Congress, he led from the center.
Hayes opted not to run for a second term, but his candidate, James Garfield, won.
Samuel Tilden, the loser who probably won, displayed a high level of character. He discouraged the war-like Democratic governors, marchers in the streets, and a congressional filibuster. He avoided a second civil war and did what Hayes called for in his inaugural. He placed the country ahead of party. There are lessons here for both George W. Bush and Al Gore and for the new Congress.
David M. Abshire is president of the Washington-based Center for the Study of the Presidency.
One important task: reaching out to minorities
George W. Bush will enter office with serious problems among African-Americans and Hispanics. Ironically, this compassionate conservative tried harder than most Republicans to appeal to these groups, but a Reuters/Zogby poll reveals that majorities of both groups deny the legitimacy of George W. Bush as president. Make no mistake about it: Mr. Bush will need to spend much of his limited political capital healing wounds and establishing some kind of relationship.
As for Congress, the battle for the 2002 elections is on. The message from the past three national elections has been to weaken partisanship - closer margins in Congress and no majorities for a president. But leaders on Capitol Hill have only interpreted them to mean more partisanship and increasing bitterness. Add to this no clear mandate on education (more teachers versus school vouchers?), healthcare (public or private program for prescription drugs?), or Social Security (privatization or lockbox?). Americans should expect no serious action on any of these issues.
Instead they should expect bombast from congressional leadership, little serious effort at bipartisanship, and little of anything else that the people might want.
Therein lies the problem. The people have apparently gotten pretty much what they wanted. There is no burning demand for action. Above all else, whether out of contentment for some and disaffection for others, there is a mandate for nothing.
John Zogby is president and CEO of Zogby International, an independent polling company in Utica, N.Y.
On inauguration day, a call for eloquence
George W. Bush's inaugural address presents an important opportunity. He will have the nation's full attention. Although John F. Kennedy ascended to the White House with a razor-thin majority, his eloquence on that important day contributed substantially to a successful assumption of the presidency.
In today's more cynical political environment, it will take more than well-chosen words to impress a skeptical public. The nation will closely examine the initial actions that the new chief executive takes.
I suggest that broad segments of the public are ready to support a high middle ground in the public-policy debate of 2001. In that spirit, President Bush could announce a revised program agenda. Realistically, it could not be a 180-degree turn away from his campaign proposals. However, some major adjustments would be in order - somewhat akin to the "midcourse corrections" many presidents make well into their terms.
In converting campaign proposals to presidential programs, great care should be made to avoid backtracking on fundamental principles. Such a course of action would upset his supporters without impressing favorably those who voted for the other candidate.
Nevertheless, President Bush could cut back his ambitious tax-cut program and emphasize debt reduction more than he has. He could also announce a positive program to deal with some of the effects of global warming. Such "olive branches" may not be sufficient. The situation may require repeated attempts to reach out to disenchanted citizens. Nevertheless, there is a great reservoir of public support for a sincere effort to do so.
Murray Weidenbaum is chairman of the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University in St. Louis.
The poetry of politics, revealed at last
Americans have been given a curious gift.
This election's aftermath is now laden with the undercurrent of poetry that the election itself lacked. In cities across America, we have witnessed the rebirth of a new kind of constituency - a constituency animated not by cynicism, but faith in these basic principles of democracy.
Daily, we have watched protest after protest in every major urban center, people investing themselves behind their votes and their chosen candidate with a fervor that has been unmatched in the past decade.
We have watched pundits finally silenced by the daily turn of events, ordinary citizens finding their voices as they turn to arcane principles of constitutional law and injunctive relief to justify desired outcomes, lawyers throwing up their hands in agony.
Suddenly, the questions are no longer about the candidates. They are about whether the wheels of democracy will ever turn the same way again.
Sonia Kumari Katyal is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and a legal scholar based in San Francisco.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society