And while Republicans in Wisconsin regained control of the state Senate and again hold majorities in both houses of the Legislature and the governor's chair, we are still known as a "battleground state" for a reason.
The first thing all the winners should get out of their heads is the notion that because they won they somehow have a "mandate" to do whatever they want regardless of those who didn't vote for them, which in most cases is nearly 50 percent of the people.
The announcement of Barack Obama's re-election came moments after networks declared the president had carried Ohio and Iowa, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed. But when the popular votes were counted nationally, it showed Obama with 50 percent and Republican challenger Mitt Romney with 48 percent.
With such a close popular vote and a split Congress, any rational person would conclude the American people want and deserve compromise to tackle our staggering debt, the pending insolvency of Medicare and Social Security, and continued efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act along with reforming the tax code.
What we don't need, and frankly are sick of, is the inflexible rhetoric from both sides - one that refuses to put tax increases on the table and the other that refuses to stop borrowing from the Chinese and everyone else to bankroll continued out-of-control spending.
Likewise at the state level, we need real leadership that comes through differing views reaching common ground that best serves the people, not the special interests who just got done spending obscene amounts of money trying to tilt the decision-making field of play in their favor. What's good for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) or the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) may not be best for the state's long-term viability.
Growing the economy remains job one both in Wisconsin and nationally. The business community bellows that they need certainty to plan for the future, so our elected leaders should give it to them in the form of less government spending (or at least slowing the growth), and raising more revenue by letting the Bush tax cuts expire and/or quickly reforming the tax code to eliminate the myriad exemptions written into the code through the years, many no doubt as political payback.
Wisconsin now has the distinction of having one very conservative U.S. senator in Ron Johnson and a very liberal senator-elect in Tammy Baldwin.
"The Obama administration should put our economy first and reach across the aisle to pass effective pro-growth policies," Johnson declared in a post-election statement.
"We have work to do to rebuild our middle class and give the people the voice they deserve in Washington," Baldwin said in declaring victory.
Johnson and Baldwin should go out for lunch and see how they can meld those ideas together. That probably won't happen, but the nearly 50-50 split in Wisconsin and across the nation would indicate that they should. And so should the rest of their colleagues.
We need to turn partisan loyalty to red or blue into unified purpose to strengthen the red, white and blue
Kenosha News. Nov. 7, 2012.
Divided government could be productive
In one important way, the nation on Wednesday morning was politically very much like the nation before Tuesday's election: Divided.
President Obama was re-elected. The Senate has a Democratic majority and the House of Representatives has a Republican majority.
While these are the same ingredients that failed to come up with long-term solutions to Medicare and Social Security finances, failed to reduce the deficit and failed to get the economy growing at an acceptable rate, there is some reason to be optimistic that recipe can be put together differently with different results.
First, one of the reasons for the lack of progress was the Republican Party's tactic of obstruction, with the expressed purpose of preventing President Obama's re-election. It didn't work. If Republicans, particularly in the U.S. Senate, are going to be obstructionist, they'll need a new explanation for it.
Second, a divided government holds the potential for solving some of the long-term problems. Obamacare, the president's attempt at controlling health care costs, is here to stay now. The talk about repealing it, which never made much sense, should be silenced by Tuesday's vote. Both parties might as well try to work with the president to make Obamacare work.
Other issues, like deficit reduction and the long-term financial health of Medicare and Social Security, are going to require two-party solutions. The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission panel had a reasonable set of recommendations that included spending cuts and revenue increases. Both parties would have to bend some of their dearly held ideological positions to accept them. That seemed impossible before with an election looming, but it might be possible now.
There's reason to be optimistic. Perhaps a Democratic Senate, a Republican House and a Democratic White House could be more productive in the next two years. There's plenty of work to do.