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649848 tn?1534637300

It's a 50-50 nation, give or take


Nov 7, 11:05 AM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - The election laid bare a dual - and dueling - nation, politically speaking, jaggedly split down the middle on the presidency and torn over much else. It seems you can please only half of the people nearly all of the time.

Americans retained the fractious balance of power in re-electing President Barack Obama, a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, altogether serving as guarantors of the gridlock that voters say they despise. Slender percentages separated winner and loser from battleground to battleground, and people in exit polls said yea and nay in roughly equal measure to some of the big issues of the day.

Democracy doesn't care if you win big, only that you win. Tuesday was a day of decision as firmly as if Obama had run away with the race. Democrats are ebullient and, after a campaign notable for its raw smackdowns, words of conciliation and healing are coming from leaders on both sides, starting with the plea from defeated Republican rival Mitt Romney that his crestfallen supporters pray for the president.

But after the most ideologically polarized election in years, Obama's assertion Wednesday morning that America is "more than a collection of red states and blue states" was more of an aspiration than a snapshot of where the country stands.

Compromise was a popular notion in the hours after Obama's victory and an unavoidable one, given the reality of divided government. But the familiar contours of partisan Washington were also in evidence, especially the notion that compromise means you do things my way.

As Democratic Rep. Steve Israel of New York put it, "If you refuse to compromise, we are going to beat you." Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the election showed "if you are an extremist tea party Republican, you are going to lose."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was grudging in interpreting the election as any kind of mandate for Obama, saying voters "have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together" with Congress, and did not endorse his "failure or excesses."

In New York's bustling Times Square, hope, skepticism and familiar polarities were all to be found when people talked about the president. "He may not have done a great job in my mind but I kinda trust him," said Jerry Shul. "I have faith he will get with the Republicans and get something done."

A less-flattering George Dallemand called this "a moment of truth" for the country. "I guess we have to wish for the best now, but I still think he is socialism."

In Miami, Karen Fitzgerald, 55, wore a black dress and said she was in mourning over Romney's defeat.

"It's an upsetting day," she said. But she took some comfort from her Democratic friends on Facebook, who have stopped chiding the other side in their posts. "Now they're all saying we need to work together and be united," she said. "Maybe we can."

In Chicago, Obama supporter Scherita Parrish, 56, predicted the president will reach out to Republicans but may not get much back.

"But the people have spoken," she said. "They need to lick their wounds, get on with it and start working with the president."

Indeed, unity is a challenge not just for Obama but for the Republicans, who won less than 30 percent of the growing Hispanic vote and not even one in 10 black voters. Obama built a strong Electoral College majority, if only a narrow advantage in the popular vote, despite losing every age group of non-Hispanic white voters.

Surveys of voters found Obama's health care law to be as divisive as ever, with just under 50 percent wanting it repealed in whole or part, and 44 percent liking it as is or wanting more of it.

But democracy doesn't care about exit polls, either, and the election almost certainly means Republicans can forget about trying to roll it back now.

In reaffirming divided government, though, Americans all but ensured colossal fights are ahead over the shape of government and Obama's agenda. He is out to break a wall of Republican opposition to tax increases on the wealthy - a move that about half the voters in exit polls thought was a good idea. And extraordinarily difficult negotiations are imminent as the president and Congress try to make a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" - steep spending cuts and a variety of tax increases in January.

In the end, voters split about equally on whether Obama or Romney would be better at handling the economy.

Then again, they were divided down the middle on whether Obama or his predecessor, George W. Bush, deserves most of the blame for the economy's problems.

So it goes in the 50-50 nation, give or take.


Associated Press writers Christine Armario in Miami, Michael Tarm in Chicago and David Martin in New York contributed to this report.

88 Responses
Avatar universal
...."start working with the President".  That statement should be a 2 way street.  Both parties need to open their eyes to what is happening here and get something done... something real.  What about this economy?  What about jobs?  What about the banking industry?  Pick something and get it handled....
Avatar universal

So it goes in the 50-50 nation, give or take.
*give and take* it is true. Now that I am feeling less threatened, I feel much more open to the 50% who wanted Romney. They (the reasonable "they") need to be heard and hopefully the Administration will move forward with an attitude of inclusion.
As much as that is possible without compromising the basic platform they ran on.
Avatar universal
I don't expect Dems to give in on what they want and don't expect R's to give in on what they want. But it can't be 1 sided like it was for the 1st 4 years. I think you will be hard pressed to actually find anything that the R's had major dealings in during the 1st 4 years. This is why I actually have little hope that anything gets done.
1530342 tn?1405020090
I have hope!
Avatar universal
Me too!
1310633 tn?1430227691
"...Now that I am feeling less threatened..."

Why did you feel threatened in the first place?

Unless you drank the media-koolaide, in which case, I completely understand.
1310633 tn?1430227691
"...the notion that compromise means you do things my way..."

If anyone thinks that anything more is going to get done in the next 4 years, than got done in the first 4 years, please pass me some of what you're smoking, as I'd like to think the same thing.
Avatar universal
Hoping is the easy part.  Hell, I'm hopeful.  Honestly, I'm not expecting much either, but any progress... anybody meeting anybody in the middle would be better than what we've got.

I've noticed this cycle, and especially here.... people need to be "right".  That takes away any flexibility/opportunity to meet somewhere else.  

Compromise.... it can happen.  I remain hopeful but am not holding my breath.
1530342 tn?1405020090
For those that are saying you don't think anything will get done, did you not listen to the Presidents speech last night? Were you not a little bit inspired. At least he is reaching out and saying he will work with the other side. That's a start in the right direction IMO...I mean have more faith. Congress does need to come together. If one side feels that they will still oppose then yes, NOTHING will get done but if both sides take a good look at last night's election and see that the majority has spoken clearly, they will both see that they have no choice but to come together. I'm going into the next 4 yrs with optimism and I have faith that both dems and repubs will actually focus on what's important to our country and just get thing done..Partisan aside...
649848 tn?1534637300
Just realized that I messed up when I posted the link.  Here's the right one.

Avatar universal
He said we would work with the other side 4 years ago and he never did. So why believe him this time? He has given no reason to believe him.
1530342 tn?1405020090
"He said we would work with the other side 4 years ago and he never did. So why believe him this time? He has given no reason to believe him."

Well he did and the reason why he couldn't fulfill it 100% is because the republicans refused to work with him. We have provided all of you on the right links of the Speaker Mitch McConnell declaring that as his first priority..You can say what you want but the reality is the repubs in congress caused the stalemate and refused to work with the President..Why? Who knows. They just don't like or respect him....
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