The Herald-Leader’s Jamie Lucke paints a dark picture of America at the conclusion of this year’s presidential campaign. She grimly describes our country as “a nation left tarnished and torn.” But when I examine the results of this election, I don’t see that. Instead, I see democracy at work — and I see a resounding repudiation of the last eight years of failed liberal policies, many of which were imposed on the American people against their will.
Her op-ed also seems to misunderstand our federal government’s system of shared powers. When Congress is controlled by one party and the White House by another, it takes cooperation from both sides to achieve bipartisan accomplishments.
It’s been done before, to great success. President Ronald Reagan worked with Democratic leaders in Congress to pass bold tax and Social Security reform. And a Republican Congress worked with President Bill Clinton to pass groundbreaking welfare reform.
If President Obama had been genuinely interested in achieving historic reforms in a bipartisan manner, he had his chance. The president is in a unique position to help bring his party to the table in cooperation. And he’s the only one who can sign what Congress passes.
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But this president took a different course. His signature piece of legislation, Obamacare, was rammed through on a party-line vote (on Christmas Eve, no less). The same goes for other major legislative efforts of the Obama era, like the economic stimulus and Dodd-Frank. Most were done on a partisan basis. It’s no coincidence that all three have failed or proven disastrous.
After appeasing his left flank, President Obama abandoned any efforts to cooperate with Republicans. He spent most of his presidency pursuing an ideological agenda that had no chance of passing, and waging a nonstop campaign against Congress. Now, as he prepares to leave office, it’s clear that strategy didn’t work.
There were a few important bipartisan accomplishments over the last eight years — but the president didn’t play a major role in brokering them. I know, because I was there, and I did.
Vice President Joe Biden and I held productive negotiations on major legislation: In 2010, we reached a deal to extend the Bush tax relief rates. In 2011, we reached an accord on the Budget Control Act, to help restore America’s fiscal sanity and avoid a government default. And in 2012, we successfully steered the nation away from the “fiscal cliff” by preventing a tax increase and calling for more sensible spending cuts.
The vice president made for an able negotiating partner — he was more interested in accomplishing something for the good of the country than in ideological purity. I can’t say the same for the current president. He had little interest in reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans.
It’s well known in Washington that President Obama failed to extend outreach in any significant way to most members of Congress, even many in his own party. As the Obama years conclude, it’s clear that was one of his biggest failings.
Soon we will have a new president. I look forward to Congress working with President-elect Donald Trump to finally achieve significant reforms, including the repeal of Obamacare, tax relief to stimulate economic growth and jobs, and the rollback of a War on Coal that has left many Kentuckians out of work.
And President Trump will appoint to the Supreme Court a justice who, like the late Antonin Scalia, recognizes that the judiciary’s role is to interpret the Constitution, not legislate from the bench.
The election of Donald Trump sends a clear message to the establishment in Washington: it’s no longer business as usual. After eight years of a White House committed to a left-wing ideological agenda, Americans voted for something very different.
The people of Kentucky certainly voted for change as well — overwhelmingly so. It’s sad but not surprising that once again, this newspaper is out of step with its readers.
I meet with constituents across the state, and I know they don’t feel the recent election has left America “tarnished and torn.” They believe that much-needed change in Washington will bring hope and renewal, to our state and our nation. And so do I.
Mitch McConnell of Louisville is the majority leader of the U.S. Senate and Kentucky’s senior senator.
In response to column by Herald-Leader editorial writer Jamie Lucke, “Could McConnell have saved GOP with less polarization?”