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Column: Obama Must Restore Unity To Polarized Nation

This story was written by , Daily Bruin


The day has come, as they say. Barack Obama has been duly elected president of the United States. So, frankly, what now?

It seems as though the nation is breathing two sighs: On the left, the majority is breathing a sigh of relief, looking forward to what they see as four years of working with a man theyve come to personify with the bold, Gotham-print words on his banners.

Hope. Change. Promise.

On the other side, a sizeable portion of our republic is breathing another sigh exasperated and disbelieving. How could the rest of America be so gullible, so blithe in their convictions and so ... socialistically sympathetic? They see another set of words behind the 48-year-old they will begrudgingly call their president.

Taxes. Weakness. Value-less. Perhaps even dangerous.

What is the 44th president of the United States of America to do? Should he take the victory as a mandate to continue his campaign into the Oval Office, or should he see the division in the country as something that must be dealt with immediately?

An Obama administration must have two immediate plans: an attempt at national reconciliation and a commitment to the promises made during the campaign.

At first glance, these may appear to be mutually exclusive aims. After all, after angering your roommate because you really like eating in the bedroom, it seems tricky to then make him happy while still spilling crumbs on the floor by his bed.

Simply put, most of the conservative resentment that stigmatized Obama had little to do with his policy positions. Lets think back (just once and then please, no more) to the election that just ended: What mud do we remember being flung at Obama?

His associations. Rumors. His judgment.

Obamas task is thus not twofold but singular: build unity by staying true to the campaign promises.

In other words, do not raise taxes more than three percent. It will be hard for Obama to be seen as a socialist once businesses continue as usual and a striking majority of Americans see lowered taxes. Likewise, he must demonstrate maturity when dealing with sensitive issues such as abortion. He must explain to the American public the difference between his personal philosophy and his governing one. He must also make it clear that he will not appoint Supreme Court justices on a single-issue system (in other words, he should stress merit and not ideology when nominating them).

The rest, it may follow, will actually fall into place.

After all, the president does not really directly deal with controversial issues. No matter how many people disagreed with President Bushs socially conservative policies, these issues were only evident during Bushs two Supreme Court justice nominations and confirmations.

Ending the war may prove controversial, though this may actually prove quite ironic. Obamas promises of an end to the war in Iraq is complicated by his promises of locking down Afghanistan. This thus invites criticism from his base, liberals and moderates who want to see a quicker end to the conflicts.

Even if the war proves politically divisive, Obama can (and must) abate the unease by staying true to certain domestic promises.

One such pledge is of particular importance to UCLA students: the American Opportunity Tax Credit. On Obamas campaign Web site, this policy promises a credit that will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students.

In exchange for this credit, the recipient will perfor 100 hours of community service.

Obama must also stay true to promises of selecting a cabinet that reflects the political and interest diversity of this nation.

Of course, the unfortunate political reality is that no matter what President Obama does in the lead-up to inauguration, there are some Americans who will greet the day with sadness, and maybe even anger.

This is the single greatest travesty in modern American politics, that we are never fully united until tragedy strikes.

Bushs approval rating is currently hovering around 28 percent. Bush, of course, has the record for the lowest approval rating of all time (19 percent).

What some people forget is that Bush also has the highest approval rating of all time, a staggering 92 percent. This rating was polled in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.

It is time that this country at least attempts to be American before it is ecstatic about Obama or sad about McCain. It is far too cliched now, but Americas blue and red divisions were once forgotten in the face of tragedy.

Perhaps come Inauguration Day, we can find our red, white and blue commonalities and join forces in a forward-thinking America, and perhaps Obama can take us there.

Keeping the Obama posters up?

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