Our View: President Bush should unite the country by taking moderate stances on the issues, even if he does not need to do so
Dominating campus life for nearly two years, Tuesday’s election results sparked a wave of conflicting emotions on campus. Triumphant Republicans extolled the virtues of their candidate; Democrats lamented another four years of President Bush. Out of these divergent perspectives came one common call: the need for reconciliation and unity. President Bush won this election without a repeat of the controversy of 2000, but this call is still nothing more than a utopian fantasy.
Nine million more people voted for President Bush than in 2000. He should not, however, forget the five and a half million more people that voted against him this year. The president’s electoral triumph does not serve as a resounding validation of his policies, but is rather indicative of an America more divided than at any time in its recent history. Bush’s promise of unity and reconciliation runs contrary to his well-documented divisive policy record and leadership style. Unless Bush is willing to make compromises despite having solid majorities in both the House and Senate, the promise of unity rings hollow in the ears of this page.
Even with a tenuous mandate from the 2000 election, President Bush pursued a radical conservative agenda. If Bush is sincere about unifying the country, there are several areas in which he could pursue a more moderate course.
If given the opportunity to do so, nominating more moderate justices to the U.S. Supreme Court could reduce partisan friction. No one expects Bush to appoint a justice with a similar ideology to a John Paul Stevens, but appointing more independent-minded justices, such as William Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor, could represent a goodwill gesture to Democrats in Congress.
Democrats care deeply about the environment. President Bush’s environmental policy was so bad his first term that his moderate Republican commissioner of the Environmental Protection Agency resigned in protest. Instead of continuing to execute an environmental policy beholden to corporations, President Bush should return to his policy in 2000 when he discussed finding new and creative ways to protect the environment, while not doing so at the expense of business.
Most importantly, President Bush should embrace reality and level with the American people. In his first term, Bush held fewer press conferences than any of his predecessors. He rarely admits mistakes and refuses to accept criticism. Bush should find more ways to communicate what he is doing, and why he is doing it, to the public. Doing so in a respectful and solemn way will allow Americans to see the way he thinks and, while still disagreeing with the final decision, respect the process he took to reach that decision.
Given overwhelming Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, President Bush could easily continue to take a radical conservative approach to governance. Conversely, he could appreciate how divisive a leader he has been and change course to work with Democrats on issues when he does not have to. History, no doubt, would judge him more favorably if he chooses the latter.