By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Late last week, a group of foreign tourists, most of them Americans, were riding a bright red and yellow contraption resembling a train, traveling not on rails, but through the streets of Belize City, capital of the Central American nation.
The tour traversed the gamut of life in the city of some 80,000 souls, from million-dollar ocean front mansions to shanty towns where laundry hung outside nearly every modest home.
Sitting in the shade alongside a quiet downtown street were a group of men — workers taking a break, or simple idlers (which is more likely, given the country’s 14 percent unemployment rate).
As the tourist train neared, the men began to chant, “Obama, Obama, Obama.”
In the back of a bus bouncing along a narrow road on the Honduran bay island of Roatan, a German tourist asked the Americans sitting next to her, “How do you feel about Obama? We like him.”
When asked in turn about her nation’s leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, the woman was not as enthusiastic.
“On some things we like her, on some things we don’t.”
That pretty much sums up the feelings of many about our newly re-elected president.
And yet a solid majority of Americans went to the polls last week and cast their ballot for Mr. Obama, which flew in the face of the tea-leaf readers and soothsayers who engage in public opinion polling these days. Most of them foresaw a tight race, one that could easily tip either red or blue, and one that might not be decided until December.
Instead, it was over long before the late night talk show hosts took the stage.
In the end, challenger Mitt Romney drew nearly two million fewer votes than the 2008 GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain, though Obama’s electoral college margin (332-206) was smaller than four years ago (365-173).
The Republicans, it seems, underestimated the voting power of minorities, the poor, city dwellers, the young and women, and overestimated the strength of the rich, country folk, seniors and regular church-goers.
So where does that leave us, as we march briskly into the next four years? Divided and dysfunctional, it seems, just where we were before election day.
We continue to face a burgeoning deficit, a struggling economy, increasing instability in the Middle East and a host of other challenges. And we do so with a Democratic president and Senate and a Republican House, not to mention the Tea Party, which has managed to divide the GOP.
Meanwhile, we are marching briskly toward the fiscal cliff, a daunting combination of tax increases and spending cuts that figures to plunge the nation back into recession — unless the president and the Congress can find a way to compromise between now and the end of the year.
Compromise is a word not often heard inside the beltway these days, so the battle to keep the double whammy from hitting our economy in the solar plexus will not be bloodless.
Speaking of polls, as if there weren’t enough of them taken before the election, Zogby Analytics conducted a post-election survey of 1,016 voters.
The survey says the American people are ready for a little good old-fashioned horse trading inside the beltway, not the horse you-know-what that has been the rule of late.
Respondents were asked: “Now that President Obama has been re-elected, what do you feel is the best approach for Congress to take?”
Sixty-one percent said that Congress should “Work closely with the president, make appropriate adjustments, seek as much compromise as possible and only prevent legislation in rare instances.”
The Zogby folks did not ask a similar question about the president, but the answer would be the same — it’s time to work together, not continue at cross-purposes.
The stakes are too high to continue the rancorous gridlock that has predominated in Washington of late. The election is past, and the next congressional vote is two years hence, so it is time to put campaign rhetoric aside and begin working for the good of the country, not the party.
Easier said than done, of course, but a worthy goal nonetheless.
And it will be four years before we choose another president, but that hasn’t kept one publication, the Buffalo News, from endorsing a candidate who hasn’t even declared her candidacy, Hillary Clinton.
And so it begins. God help us.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.