Mandate for change

The post-partisan realignment is at hand. Today the new Washington gets to work with a powerful mandate for change issued by the people of the nation.

Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress won a substantial victory. It was not a close election. It was a sweeping mandate for new policies, new thinking and new ways of doing business in Washington.

Obama won a strong mandate for policies he proposed during the campaign. Major economic stimulus. Dramatic healthcare reform. New diplomacy in the Middle East. Careful withdrawal from Iraq. Reinforcements for Afghanistan. Action on climate change. The public mandate was clear.

Republicans should respect this.

Second, Obama’s mandate includes a genuine reaching-out to Republicans for constructive ideas and shared ownership of real change. When Republican leaders call for lowering taxes for the wealthy, they disrespect the mandate. When Republicans suggest innovative tax cuts to promote alternative energy, green jobs or a revived auto industry, they plow fertile fields.

Third, Obama’s mandate demands real change. Not replacing one establishment with another. Not replacing Republican old thinking with Democratic old thinking. Obama’s mission is Abe Lincoln’s: to think anew. This will be the greatest test for President Obama and, if he succeeds, his one path to historical greatness.

American public opinion entering the Obama years is divided along new fault lines with two competing, shifting and contradictory tectonic plates:

There is huge anger, resentment, cynicism and backlash against status-quo establishments in politics, business, economics and media.

There is a gigantic and correct backlash against bailouts that piled huge sums of money on those at the top who created the problem while reaping giant compensation for their failures. There is an angry backlash against corruptions from Blagojevich to Madoff and the petty and large corruptions that have become a way of life in our now-ending Gilded Age.

Yet there is now a profound reservoir of hope for change. Bush and his policies were opposed by 70 percent of Americans; Obama and his changes are supported by 70 percent. For Obama and the new Congress, this is a precious gift and a sacred trust that should plant the seeds for a new way of business in Washington. This must not become a fleeting moment between periods of public cynicism and anger.

Lincoln did not seek continuity with Buchanan. FDR did not promise continuity with Hoover.

Obama’s mission, opportunity and trust is to restore public confidence that leaders throughout America become, once again, the voice of our people and the conscience of our community. My columns aspire, despite their occasional imperfections, to the tradition of Walter Lippman. Lippman advised high-level leaders while he wrote about the challenges of his times for the powerful and citizenry alike. He believed, as I do, that every century can be an American Century, defined as the vision of Jefferson and Paine that America can be a beacon for the world.

Let’s reject the tired commentators who say America’s best days are behind us. They are not. By honoring the verdict of the voters, we will restore confidence and spirit to lift the nation to heights unimaginable in these dark days of discontent.

As we begin a new American voyage, let’s honor the mandate of our people to think anew, act anew and begin anew.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be reached at brentbbi@webtv.net and read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog.