Let's recap: on the elections of November 2, Republicans gained a total of 6 Senate seats and 64 House seats, taking control of the lower chamber and bringing the Senate down from its supermajority 60-40 split before Sen. Kennedy's passing to a mere 53-47. Democrats have stopped the talk of a new, leftward era and Republicans are talking about retaking the presidency as their No. 1 priority for 2012.
Understandably, though there's no shortage of liberals trying to find a silver lining in these tidings, very few are about to take the recent events as good news. Enter William Galston. "Obama has Boehner right where he wants him," proclaims his headline in The New Republic. ("Seriously." adds the subheadline). Okay--how so?
Galston points out that two recent surveys show the public wants Republicans to work together with President Obama "'to accomplish things, even if it means disappointing some groups of Republican supporters.'" The public also wants Obama to work with Republicans instead of just pleasing Democrats. But the interesting thing, says Galston, is the breakdown: independents and swing voters want compromise. So do the vast majority of Democrats (73 percent). But "only 30 percent of Republicans" do, 65 percent instead wanting leaders to "do even more to stop the president's agenda." Hence Galston's conclusion:
Obama faces a win-win situation. If he extends his hand to the opposition and they spurn it, the independents and swing voters whose views will determine the 2012 election will give him credit for doing what they want while coming down hard on Republican obstructionists. If the Republicans grasp his outstretched hand, then the country might actually make some progress. And by a margin of 49 to 30, the people think that the president--not congressional Republicans--should take the lead.