Election Mandate: Need for Bipartisanship

Let's hope with the election behind us the President will stand up and be a leader and Congress will start to work together.

In 2010 Republicans felt they had a "mandate" to obstruct any moves by Obama after the major healthcare reform split the country. The result has been gridlock for the past two years in preparation for November 2012.

Is there a mandate this year?

House Speak John Boehner said if there was a mandate in the election results, "it's a mandate to find a way for us to work together."

Amen! I think we can all get behind that notion. But is it possible?

I've said often that a one party government doesn't benefit anyone, even if you support that one party. Our government was created with checks and balances for a reason.

Joel Newman, president and CEO of the American Feed Industry Association, said the election outcome is a second chance, not a mandate, for President Obama.

"Overall, it's pretty clear voters opted for the status quo and not a wholesale shift in political control. The challenge to the White House and Congress is to put action behind all the 'appropriate' things being said about bipartisanship because it's pretty clear the public's frustration with inaction on key issues: the economy, taxes, the Farm Bill, immigration reform – is close to the breaking point."

Voting allows the country to send a message to Congress and the President what we collectively think is important. Carl Zulauf, ag economist at Ohio State University, stated that really didn't happen this election cycle.

Zulauf argued that the weaker mandate of sorts "does impose the notion that we're going to need some creative thinking for new policy solutions to build the consensus of how we redesign the safety net - for instance what constitutes appropriate and fair tax levels, social programs, health care and nutrition programs.

Mark Maslyn, executive director of public policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation, pointedly said we have just one president and 535 members of Congress. "Presidents lead and Congress follows. The question is whether President Obama will lead on fiscal issues and offer any concessions to get Republicans to climb on board or just take a hardline approach," Maslyn said.

Maslyn said it's prudent for the President to step up and unite the country. "He has to lay out his vision and accept the views of the Republican Party in this case. If he rises above the campaign mode, he can go down as a significant force. I think people's reputations are measured by the challenging times they serve in."

History tells us that a second term president can be a very different person. Zulauf said its unknown if the fact Obama will not be running for reelection changes the President's willingness to negotiate. He noted we probably won't know until the State of the Union address, or maybe as early as the lame duck session, if there is a change in heart from Obama's leadership approach.

Newman said while AFIA works successfully with both political parties, "we're hoping President Obama will take his cue from former President Bill Clinton and move to the political center. Our members are very concerned about whether Congress and the White House can come together to provide tax reform/budgetary and regulatory certainty to the marketplace so pro-growth company decisions can be made."

We will have to wait to see if top-of-mind farm issues including the farm bill, trade, and immigration offer a starting point for bipartisanship in 2013. Over the next few weeks I'll tackle those topics as well as keep you updated on whether the farm bill gets any action during the lame duck session.

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