Ed Koch: Advice to Both Republicans and Democrats

November 13, 2012 10:27 am 0 comments

President Barack Obama talks with Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., Republican Whip, at the conclusion of a meeting with bipartisan Congressional leadership in the Oval Office Private Dining Room. Photo: Pete Souza.

President Barack Obama won reelection in a blowout. Some will ask how I can say “blowout” when he narrowly won the popular vote. President Obama won by a margin of about 3 million votes, winning 62,085,892 votes, compared with Mitt Romney’s 58,777,012 votes. However, the President handily won the electoral college by a majority of 332 to 206. Two-hundred and seventy electoral votes were needed to win.

The Republicans kept control of the House of Representatives, but lost seats, so that the House formerly 242 Republicans and 193 Democrats, is now 233 Republicans and 194 Democrats. There are still a number of races that haven’t been decided.

In the Senate, the Democrats won an additional 2 seats, so that they now have a majority of 55, but still lack the super majority of 60 needed to end a filibuster. In the last Congress, the Republicans never actually filibustered; they merely threatened to filibuster, and the Democrats caved. The Republicans should no longer be permitted to simply threaten. They should have to actually begin the filibuster and see how long the Democratic leadership gives them before calling for a simultaneous vote ending the filibuster and a vote on the legislation with the assistance of five Republican moderates.

Obama carried all but one of the battleground states, and that was North Carolina. Florida was not called until several days after the national vote, but ultimately was carried by Obama by the narrowest of margins, 50 percent to 49.1 percent, a difference of only 74,000 votes. I was particularly interested in Florida, having provided to the Obama campaign two op eds, two robo calls and one five-minute video commercial, which they split in two and played on the Obama website. I was pleased to get from my campaign contact after the election the following e-mail message: “Mayor, I can’t begin to adequately express my personal gratitude for your critical leadership throughout this past year. I know that it was not always an easy thing to be in the trenches with us. Judging by the narrow margin in Florida, it’s evident that your support was invaluable…”

On Geraldo Rivera’s radio show, both Bill O’Reilly and I participated by telephone and O’Reilly agreed that Obama had had a big victory, but objected to my calling it a blowout. I think I was right to do so but, in any event, winning is always better than losing, no matter the margin of victory.

What lessons should the Republicans take from their loss; and what should the Democrats do with their victory over the next four years?

The core or base of the Republican Party since the election of Ronald Reagan has been the Christian right, especially the Evangelicals in the South and Midwest. The New York Times of November 10, 2012, in an article by Laurie Goodstein, provided the best analysis of the many I read and heard in the media. She wrote: “They are reeling not only from the loss of the presidency, but from what many of them see as a rejection of their agenda. They lost fights against same-sex marriage in all four states where it was on the ballot, and saw anti-abortion-rights Senate candidates defeated and two states vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use. It is not as though they did not put up a fight; they went all out as never before: The Rev. Billy Graham dropped any pretense of nonpartisanship and all but endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Roman Catholic bishops denounced President Obama’s policies as a threat to life, religious liberty and the traditional nuclear family. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition distributed more voter guides in churches and contacted more homes by mail and phone than ever before. ‘Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,’ R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. ‘It’s not that our message – we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong – didn’t get out. It did get out. It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,’ he said. ‘An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.’”

The lesson for the Republicans is they will never win future presidential elections unless and until their platform accommodates diversity of opinion on hot-button issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and use of medical or recreational marijuana. The Republicans have increasingly sought to impose by law their religious beliefs on others. If their party is to remain a national party, they should seek to persuade and educate, not to mandate by law. The best example of the Republican failed effort to mandate that contributed to their defeat was their platform on abortion, which advocates legislation barring abortion, even to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.

Then there are the “third rail” issues of Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. They should know by now that, while the public understands these contracts with the government must be made solvent via reductions in benefits, the government contracts cannot be privatized. The Republican Party can still advocate for changes in the roles of both the federal and state governments. It can argue against government guarantees that protects the public against losses in the event of misfortune caused by nature or the economy. Both parties argue against red tape and bureaucracy. But the Republican Party seeks to substantially deregulate Wall Street and the banking industry, while the Democratic Party seeks to protect consumers to a far greater extent. Its support of Wall Street, the banks and opposition to increasing taxes on the truly wealthy have caused the public to see the Republican Party as a protector of the rich. For them to continue with that philosophy would be one of their greatest continuing blunders. My advice is, they should study the history and policies of Abe Lincoln and use his image in the same way we Democrats use the image of F.D.R. Currently, they only use Lincoln dinners to raise campaign funds.

President Obama’s response to his huge electoral victory should be to accept the fact that the Republicans still control one-third of the legislative process: the House of Representatives. He should make every effort to reach agreement with the Republicans on the vitally important fiscal cliff issues such as revenue raising and expense cutting, reducing the national debt, revising the tax code and eliminating loopholes. I, for one, liked the idea that Mitt Romney offered in the last few weeks of the campaign which was to limit all loopholes available to an individual to a maximum of $25,000. The taxpayer would then decide how to distribute that amount among his allowable deductions for interest on mortgage and charitable contributions, etc.

President Obama should also identify half a dozen issues that he would like to be part of his legacy and, irrespective of Republican support, seek to accomplish them in this, his last term.

A good rule of thumb, I believe, in compromising differences based on the outcome of the elections would be 60 percent of the issues should be resolved in favor of the victors – Democrats and 40 percent in favor of the losers – Republicans. What do you think?

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