Commentary: Obama capable of unifying country

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

The toughest job faced by every president-elect is making a smooth transition from partisan candidate to national leader. Political campaigns are corrosively partisan by their very nature, but sustaining popular support for long amid Washington's charged partisan environment requires a consensus-seeking approach, coupled with the kind of astute political judgment that has long been lacking from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other. President Bush failed to live up to his promise to be a uniter, not a divider, which in no small measure is responsible for his diminished standing as reflected in national polls.

That should be Lesson No. 1 for President-elect Barack Obama. After a remarkable victory in which he managed to win votes even in those parts of the country where Democrats rarely succeed, Sen. Obama can claim a national mandate to turn the country in a new direction. Yet this is still more reason to seek consensus. Incremental change is hard, and real change - the kind that Sen. Obama promised - will be even harder.

Although Democrats tightened their grip on Congress, Mr. Obama will not enjoy the huge legislative majorities that would enable his party to enact a host of new laws without reaching out to the other side.

Fortunately, Sen. Obama seems to understand this. Although he becomes the first Democrat since LBJ in 1964 to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote, he reached out on Tuesday night to Sen. John McCain's supporters, asking for their help. "I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices," he said in an earnest appeal to share the responsibility of crafting a new future.

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