On November 4, the American people had the opportunity to choose between two candidates with the character and temperament to be not just good presidents but great presidents. John McCain ran the best campaign he could in a very difficult environment and he showed the country, once again, with his moving and gracious concession speech, what it means for a statesman and leader to put the interests of America and the next generation ahead of his own self-interest.
Barack Obama’s election last night was an historic victory not for any party or ideology but for America’s aspiration to be a country where anything is possible, and where all men are created equal. His election also was a victory for democracy. Even if many Americans don’t like the electoral results, his campaign proved that when the American people are inspired and mobilize they can seize the reins of government and demand change.
Our president-elect offered an olive branch to Republicans last night to ‘heal the divides that have held back progress.’ We would be wise to accept his offer, roll up our sleeves and work together on areas where we can agree. The unmistakable mandate everyone in public office can take from this election is that it’s time to define a ‘new kind of politics’ with our actions, not just our words. The space between the parties is a vast frontier of consensus and possibility. The American people have always called this area ‘common sense.’ It’s time for elected officials to put aside their careerist aspirations in service to this ideal.
Conservatives should be reassured that our president-elect did not seek an ideological mandate in this election, nor did he receive one. The failure of the Republican Party in this election does not represent the failure of conservatism, but of the big government Republicanism that took over our party in 1996. Had the Republican Party not governed as the party of socialism-lite for the past 12 years, our candidates’ concerns about the excessive spending on the other side would have had more relevance.
Republican efforts to build a governing majority through spending and earmarks have ended in disgrace. The Republican Party can either restore its identity as the party of limited government or go the way of the Whigs. When Republicans decide to come home to the timeless conservatism present at our founding, the conservatism of Abraham Lincoln – which our president-elect graciously acknowledged last night – and the conservatism of Ronald Reagan that won the Cold War and led to unprecedented prosperity, they know where to find us.