Pondering an election post-mortem

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By Greg Romberg

Now that we’ve had a couple of weeks to digest election results, I find myself with observations about what we’ve seen and will see at all levels of government.

On a federal level, I’m hopeful that now President Obama has won another term and will never run for re-election again, that we’ll find the necessary cooperation between the president and Congress to avert the fiscal cliff in the next few weeks and to address important issues more constructively going forward.
Ever since Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told the National Journal just before the 2010 elections, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” and shortly afterward the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives with a big influx of freshmen affiliated with the Tea Party, we were virtually assured that the entire term of the 112th Congress was going to be confrontational on both sides and that little of substance could be expected.
While some pundits have questioned how we can expect increased cooperation after the 2012 elections gave us the same Democratic president and Senate and Republican House that we’ve experienced the last two years, the big difference is that the president is now working on legacy instead of re-election, and both sides recognize that the people expect them to work for the republic and our democracy instead of for Democrats and Republicans. The urgency of the fiscal cliff provides hope if the lame-duck Congress can find a solution before the new Congress is sworn in in January, that momentum from that success can be used to move forward on other issues in 2013.
At the state level, while new technologies changed how it was done, it seems clear that the reason Democrats swept almost all of the highly targeted legislative seats was success at registering voters and then getting them out to vote. There were remarkable shifts in the voter-registration numbers in targeted legislative districts between the primary in June and when voter registration ended in October, all in favor of Democrats. Sophisticated get out-the-vote efforts took full advantage of the registration drives.
Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen both parties overreach when they’ve controlled the governor’s office and both legislative chambers. Democrats, who now control all three in Colorado, will need to pick issues carefully, especially because the general wisdom is that in 2014 more seats currently held by Democrats in the state Senate will be vulnerable than those held by Republicans.
Locally, with both the mill-levy override and bond issue for Jefferson County schools approved by comfortable margins, school board members should take advantage of the vote of confidence to reach out and prove conclusively that they are and will be effective stewards of the public’s trust and resources. With the election taking some very difficult budget cuts off the table, the board should look for ways to stretch resources. A good start would be to reopen discussions about how we can make better use of facilities, especially schools with so few students that they should be closed or consolidated and whether we can prepare sixth-graders better and0 more cost-effectively in middle schools than in elementary schools.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.