Hard work ahead

It was a great presidential election. We’re not happy with the outcome, but we loved the process. The fact that so many people went to the polls, some even waiting in line for hours, reminded us that democracy is greater than its participants. The American Republic will endure.

It will be an interesting four years, to say the least. With the Republicans enjoying a solid grip on both houses of Congress and Bush gaining a clear, if thin, majority of the popular vote, the president is bound to think he has a mandate to carry forth his agenda. So look for him to try to make his tax cuts permanent, force through an energy policy heavy on oil and gas exploration and privatize Social Security.

Bush has promised to halve the federal deficit by 2008, but it’s doubtful. After all, this is a man who didn’t veto a single spending bill during his first term and signed a $140 billion tax giveaway to big business just before the election.

Even more worrisome is the future of Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Social Security. With health care costs skyrocketing and the number of pensioners increasing, all three programs are approaching critical mass.

There will be a new chief justice of the Supreme Court soon and no doubt one or two new justices in coming years. The impact that will have is hard to reckon, but the pressure from the president’s evangelical base to overturn Roe v. Wade will be intense.

Then there’s Iraq. Already the cost of the war has been upped by $25 billion this year. And the situation on the ground is iffy, at best. If insurgents can be pushed back enough to clear the way for elections, it remains to be seen whether the new government, most likely a Shia-dominated one, will be able to consolidate power in the face of a Sunni resistance and Kurdish desires for independence.

Given the daunting challenges the president will face, perhaps condolences are more in order than congratulations. President Bush has tremendous problems to solve. Most important, he faces a deeply divided nation. Ultimately his tenure won’t be considered successful unless he works to heal the great schism that afflicts this country. We don’t think he has it in him to do that, but we pray that we’re wrong.