KyivPost

Obama wins, so let's celebrate then get back to work

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Nov. 7, 2012, 10:41 a.m. | Op-ed — by Brian Bonner

US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden celebrate winning the 2012 US presidential election November 7, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama swept to re-election, forging history again by defying the dragging economic recovery and high unemployment which haunted his first term to beat Republican Mitt Romney. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB
© AFP

Brian Bonner

Brian Bonner has served as the chief editor of the Kyiv Post since 2008. He also held the job in 1999, three years after first arriving in Ukraine to teach journalism. Bonner is a veteran American journalist who spent most of his professional life with the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota, where he covered international, national and local news during a nearly 24-year career in which he was a staff writer and an assigning editor. For American newspapers, he has reported from abroad in Russia, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Laos. Bonner left the St. Paul newspaper in 2007 to become the associate director of international communications at the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C. He also worked as a member of the core teams with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe during six election observation missions in Ukraine, Belarus, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. To contact: email bribonner@gmail.com, Facebook at www.facebook.com/brianbonner, Twitter @BSBonner, Skype at brian.bonner1959.

I have never liked Mitt Romney so much as during his concession speech, which I watched from my apartment in Kyiv early on Wednesday morning before my 20-minute walk to work.

The losing Republican candidate – and it feels good to write these words – hit all the high notes in graciously talking about unity, compromise, working together, what makes America great and so forth. If Romney had revealed such an intellectual, moderate and compassionate side during the election campaign, the nation might have believed he was such a person. And he might have had a chance at winning.

But he didn’t.

And that’s why America’s victory -- President Barack Obama’s re-election to a second and final four-year term – is a great win for the world.

Obama’s re-election is a triumph over the racist, narrow-minded, gun-toting, hate-filled, tax-cheating, religious bigots, xenophobes and other kooks stirred up by right-wing billionaires who channeled enormous amounts of money on behalf of Romney’s negative campaign. Most Republicans who voted for Romney don't fit this description, but most who do fit this description went for Romney.

The truth doesn’t always win out, or necessarily emerge in our lifetimes, but in this campaign it did.

And it was Romney’s own words that revealed his divisive character and moral repugnance when he wrote off 47 percent of Americans as irresponsible deadbeats. Those remarks, videotaped at a private fundraiser he was hosting last spring, were exposed in September. He never recovered from the damage. Nor did he deserve to recover. Those remarks exposed what kind of president he would have been. He would have been dedicated to making the rich even richer, while inciting the rest of us to fight amongst ourselves over various social issue that deflect our attention from the way America is losing its moral claim to being the land of equal opportunity.

Romney richly deserves to be in the ash heap of American politics. Even if he repudiated the right-wing hate-mongers who backed him so zealously—not so much for love of the Republican candidate, but out of raw hatred for Obama – he missed his chance.

I hope all of those people who couldn’t stand Obama just because of his race, who blamed him for everything, who posted on the Internet photos of him with a noose around his neck will decide to examine their hearts, minds and souls. I hope they become real Americans again – and that means loving the nation again.

Being a patriot in America means that compromise, sacrifice and tolerance are required.

It means helping everybody get a fair shot at success. It means supporting government spending on education, infrastructure, essential regulation, protecting the environment and the like. Only a just society is truly prosperous and competitive.

And it means paying taxes – and the only fair way to tax is on the ability to pay. America’s fiscal mess will require a combination of spending cuts and tax increases to fix.

But the Republicans, who still control the U.S. House of Representatives, have vowed not to compromise with Obama. They still resist any tax increases. And they would be ruthless in cutting government spending.

If the Republicans continue down this obstructionist path, America’s two-party system is imperiled – because their unfortunate choice of candidates will only get them the votes of selfish, rich, white men in the future. And there are just not enough of them to win an election.

But now that Obama has won, it’s also time to challenge the president and the Democrats to do better.

Far from being a socialist as his critics deride, Obama sometimes acts like an establishment Republican for his unwillingness to challenge Wall Street excesses, corporate greed, a bloated military and institutionalized government favors for the wealthy 1 percent. My friend in Kyiv, Democrat Reno Domenico, says America is in danger of becoming an oligarchy like Ukraine. I think that’s not the case yet, but my nation is certainly heading in this direction.

I also hope Obama finds a way to get the nation’s economy on track while reducing the nation’s debt. It won’t be an easy challenge, leaving little room for celebration.

Americans should also re-examine their election system. Explaining to Ukrainians why my nation clings to an electoral system that could give victory to the candidate with fewer votes is increasingly harder to do. Moreover, big money has infected American politics in an excessive and destructive way -- $2.6 billion spent on this campaign, and for what? It wasn’t for the enlightenment of the public. Maybe there is room in America for more than a two-party system to break through the establishment gridlock. Because even though Obama’s state-by-state electoral college victory of 303 votes counts as a landslide over Romney, the popular vote looks to be about 50-50.

Being in Ukraine through all of this has its advantages. While I feel left out of the celebration back home, the mood in Kyiv on Wednesday morning pulled me back to reality. While looking at all the people I encountered in crowded mini-vans and trolleybuses, hustling out of the metro, selling from kiosks and trudging along the streets, I turned out to be the only one I noticed skipping along, occasionally shouting “Obama!” and pumping my fists in the air with joy.

I guess it’s time to cut the celebration and get to work, for me and my nation. There’s a lot to do for all of us.

Kyiv Post chief editor Brian Bonner can be reached at bonner@kyivpost.com.

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