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Bill Kennedy: All hail to the chief

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: January 22, 2009 6:56 p.m.
Updated: January 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Bill Kennedy Bill Kennedy
Bill Kennedy

Yes, you are reading that correctly. A columnist for "Right Here, Right Now," a Republican piece, is praising our new president, who is a Democrat.

If that surprises you, then my next statement will shock you.

My hope is that the Democrats' takeover of the White House and Congress will result in genuine, meaningful and positive change for our country.

The premise at work here is a simple and noble one - country before party. In a healthy democracy, the competing parties will wage hard campaigns to defeat the other, but then join forces for the sake of effective governing once the election determines the winner.

Unfortunately, in recent times, perpetrators of political evil have rejected such sensibility and replaced it with the notion that political parties exist for the prime purpose of crushing the competing party, a mantra widely espoused by Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff.

Thus, such evildoers have morphed the purpose of a political party, from one of providing a means for like-minded people to join together to promote programs and candidates, to one of providing a weapon of character assassination to inflict revenge on the foe.

Practitioners of this misguided philosophy view winning an election as a means of achieving a higher ground from which they can continue the battle as a conflict without compromise while being rewarded with a greater arsenal of weapons.

In the process, society has suffered the collateral damage of an erosion of faith in our leaders, chipping away at the very foundation necessary for a democracy to work.

Now that we have a new president, we are in a position to break the trend of vengeance, and we can only hope that Obama will use his good offices to do so.

Paradoxically, to bring the country together, he will have to reject some of the very practices that got him elected.

The basic premise of the Obama campaign, and one shared by all the Democrat candidates in the primaries, was to vilify the incumbent president and, by association, all Republicans.

They never missed an opportunity to remind people of the "mistakes" of the Republican administration, notwithstanding the fact that decisions undertaken by the administration were made, by nature, without the benefit of the very hindsight that the Democrats were using to evaluate them.

The tactic they used is an old sales trick known as "dragging the prospect through the broken glass," whereby a sales person attempting to lure an account from a competitor will make the prospect experience sufficient pain about his or her existing relationship that the prospect will welcome a change from the current vendor and transfer the account to the presenter.

The Democrats proved that such an approach can be effective. For example, one of their major campaign themes was built on the notion there exists in America a suppressed middle class, a concept that resonates with people looking for an easy scapegoat for their financial woes during an economic recession, but completely ignores the reputation of hope the U.S. offers the rest of the world as "the land of opportunity."

Now that they are in office, the level of cynicism or credibility that the Democrats deserve will ultimately be rooted in the level of integrity and honesty with which they conduct themselves. If they cling to the philosophy of Emanuel, that could be a problem.

Which way will President Obama go? Will he embrace compromise for the sake of the people, or will he embrace conflict for the sake of his party?

We can only hope that in dealing with the division between our political parties, he will abide by the offer he extended to our enemies in his inaugural address: "We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

The new president has an amazing opportunity ahead of him.

To his credit, he appears to be sincere in his desire to be reach out as a moderate, even if he occasionally reverts to the tactics that got him into office.

He also seems to sense that to secure his place in history, he has to be president of all the people.
His widespread appeal is rooted in the clever way he has successfully "channeled" Abraham Lincoln, a Republican; JFK, a Democrat; and Martin Luther King Jr., the greatest civil rights advocate of our time.

We can hope that he can also reflect a common characteristic among this exceptional trio - that they placed the needs of the country above their respective parties. If he can do that, he will earn his rightful place in history.

From my perspective, I am already gratified to see the good he has done reflected in the eyes of minorities who have finally seen the aims of the civil rights movement fulfilled, and reflected in the relieved faces of the innocent majority who can finally be relieved of guilt.

I truly want this president to succeed for the sake of all of us. And when his term of office is over, I expect the Republicans to be standing ready with even better programs to build on his success ... right here, right now.

Bill Kennedy lives in Valencia and is a principal in Wingspan Business Consulting. He serves on many foundations and boards in the Santa Clarita Valley. "Right Here, Right Now" appears Fridays in The Signal and rotates among several local Republican writers. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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