For the past four years, the accepted narrative of America has been that we are a nation divided. Polarized. Pulling in different directions. Half for, and half against.
Today, a lot of wise people – from pundits to politicians to Internet posters and tweeters – seem to be willing to accept that as the narrative for the next four years.
I think it's time to change the narrative, to turn away from this self-fulfilling prophecy.
I'm not blind. I see the map with its swaths of red across the heartland and rural America, and its dabs of blue in urban areas and enclaves of the wealthy. I can read the returns that show the popular vote almost evenly divided between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I recognize that Republicans remain in control of the House and Democrats rule the Senate.
I can spell “gridlock.”
But I also know that this is not what Americans want. When it comes to our desires for the future, we are not divided. We are unified in our hopes for security in our economy, opportunity for our children, availability of health care, stability in our government.
Sure, we have different ideas about how to get there. And there are serious arguments about some of details around the margins. But on a macro level we all want the same thing: a better economy, quality health care, an educational system that is on the rise rather than the decline.
There are those who will look at Tuesday's political results and disagree. You could hear them revving up their excuses even before all the votes were counted. There was George Will, the conservative pundit, telling us “the constitution encourages obstruction” in government. Speaker of the House John Boehner opined that his fellow Republicans, by retaining control of the House, “have as much of a mandate” as the president. Many of those legislators who were re-elected on Tuesday may see their victory as a sign that doing nothing is what voters want from their Congress, and that compromise is just a stop on the way to political defeat (as former Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana found out in losing his Republican primary this spring).