Clayton Mitchell: The Gift of a Second Chance

By Clayton A. Mitchell, Sr., Esquire

President Obama and Governor Romney each professed to have the only real solutions for the problems that plague our time — and neither one is right. The acerbic manner in which each candidate’s campaign espoused a different path forward for America did all of us a disservice by engendering the electorate’s further polarization. Notwithstanding the results that technically declared an Electoral College winner, the fact is that the country is divided into two spheres of equal dimensions with each side currently mutually excluding the other.

President Obama campaigned on “hope and change” while Governor Romney promised “real change”. After billions of campaign dollars, four debates, two conventions and months of media warfare, what has changed? Nothing. The chess game’s pieces are in exactly the same position today as they were two years ago — the same presiding officers remain in power, the Congress remains divided, and the same chronic problems metastasize the nation.

The same players who caused our country’s lower credit rating while promising to remedy our fiscal problems under the threat of sequestration must somehow, in a lame-duck Congress, put the brakes increased deficit spending before we plunge off the fiscal cliff like Thelma and Louise. Instead of compromise and problem-solving, our national leaders have previously played to stalemate and then kicked the debt-filled can down the road under the guise that temporary delays buy time to find palatable long term solutions.

Collectively, we just elected a divided federal government. We now get the government we deserve. Consequently, it is a test of our maturity as a nation to come to the realization that compromise is not defeat, that the other side’s concerns are not frivolous or selfish, and that our common interest in self-preservation entails painful solutions. This requires statesmanship.

No reasonable thinking adult believes that Washington has been a functioning enterprise for decades. Everyone knows that our fiscal house is on fire and that the flames do not care about politics. We also know that our leaders are capable of finding ways to vanquish the blaze before we are incinerated in debt. This requires a fireman’s courage.

Mr. President and members of Congress –- we the people get it — there are no cheap or easy solutions. But there are solutions. As President Kennedy said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” The voters have given you, our elected representatives, the gift of a second chance. Now get to work.

Clayton A. Mitchell, Sr. is an attorney in Stevensville and regular contributor to Center Maryland.