I received dozens of emails and phone calls after the election from friends and colleagues asking ostensibly the same thing: “What’s next?”
The real question was political; “Where do the Republicans go from here?” I am quite sure that my response took them off guard. That’s because the next question for either party should not be “what’s next?”
The question we need to be asking is . . . How do we begin to heal?”
The presidential election confirmed empirically what all of us have known at a gut level — this country is divided, deeply so. For example, even before Florida was officially called, more than 8.2 million votes had been cast, with a difference of some 40,000 or 0.5 percent separating the two candidates. Near-perfect division. That division has existed since the 2000 election when Florida decided the outcome with 537 votes, and the Electoral College and national popular vote were split.
So, to both my discouraged Republican friends, and my buoyant Democratic friends, let the healing begin.
After all, America is the priority. Republicans must not allow the desire to begin strategizing for 2016 to overtake them. Democrats must reach across the aisle, and avoid the temptation to gloat.
Yes, it was a great victory for President Obama, but more than anything else, it was clear proof of a nation divided, a division that if allowed to continue, will haunt our children’s children for generations to come.
In my opinion, the most prudent path to healing includes President Obama studying the actions of someone he sometimes notes as his idol, Abraham Lincoln, undoubtedly our greatest president. As historian Doris Kearns Goodwin explains in her thoughtful biography, Team of Rivals, Lincoln and his key rivals during the 1860 presidential race, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase and Edward Bates, all waited in their respective hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention.
When Lincoln won, his rivals were clearly upset and disappointed, as Lincoln was, at best, a dark-horse.
Kearns Goodwin notes Lincoln’s brilliant and wise strategy. Rather than casting his opponents to the wind, he embraced them as part of his cabinet. How about that for gumption?
What an amazing step if President Obama were to embrace some of his key rivals and make them part of his inner sanctum of advisors. What about Romney for secretary of the Treasury or McCain as secretary of State?
Talk about letting the healing begin!
Americans are exhausted with the negativity and gridlock that permeates government. President Obama could go down in history as one of our true national conciliators.
Wouldn’t this be humbling for the president, you might ask? After all, he’s the winner.
Yes, but I believe that reconciliation begins with humility. Arrogance is a great temptation after such a victory. Nothing adorns a leader more than magnanimity. The combination of arrogance and bitterness accounts for a great deal of what ails our country today and hampers genuine dialogue.
You can’t deal with an arrogant person, and you can’t deal with a bitter person. It simply does not work.
Americans are desperate for positive steps from our governmental leaders. President Obama, Republican leaders, give us something to hang our hats on. Have a cup of coffee together. Not just as a photo op, but as a legitimate step towards conciliation.
Only then will America begin to see a new approach and commitment to understanding what really matters to us as a nation regardless of political affiliation.
Trust me; it will be water in the desert for those of us who want the best for America.
Modesto A. (Mitch) Maidique is a former member of the faculties of Harvard, MIT and Stanford and is President Emeritus of Florida International University. He currently heads the Center for Leadership at FIU.