While we may disagree and disagree strongly on the best solutions, few in either party would argue that these are not the challenges we face as a nation. The average American thinks: if the two sides recognize that these are the challenges we face, and if they both acknowledge that nothing can be accomplished to solve these problems unless the two parties work together, than how on earth are they not working together? It is easy to see why so many Americans disapprove of the job our leaders in Washington are doing, and it is easy to see why so many Americans have become disillusioned with politics in general.
It doesn’t have to be this way; the remedy to the inaugural hangover is evident to even the most casual observer: we need bipartisanship. Saying we need it and making it happen are two entirely different things.
If we are going to have real bipartisanship, a bipartisanship that will allow us to find big solutions to the big challenges we face, it will require leadership — and that leadership must start at the very top.
President Barack Obama doesn’t need to start preparing for the 2014 midterms, he needs to reach out to Republicans in both chambers and commit to working together. The endless campaign cycle is not only corrosive to the political process, it all but guarantees that no one in Washington has an interest in working with anyone on the other side of the aisle.
There will be plenty of time for campaigning, now is the time to get things done.
We need leadership that not only encourages bipartisanship but is willing to stand up to those on the ideological fringes in both party who work tirelessly to sabotage any bipartisan efforts.
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, demonstrated immense political courage during the last fiscal cliff crisis, political courage that almost cost him his speakership. It is time that President Barack Obama show that same kind of political courage. It is time that he speak out against extremists on the left and it is time for him to urge that Harry Reid and the Democratic-controlled Senate become a fully participating part of the legislative process.
The next four years will determine what President Barack Obama’s legacy will be, and more importantly, will help decide what kind of country we leave for our children and grandchildren.
Steven C. LaTourette is a former congressman from Ohio and president of the Republican Main Street Partnership.