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The Party's Over, Let's Get to Work : Have some fun, but is this any way to govern the country?

November 11, 1994

It was an election that will never be forgotten, rolling over the American political horizon with a force that shook the earth from the lowliest dogcatcher precinct to the most rarefied pinnacle of government, the White House. And when the shaking began to subside and the dust began to settle, there they were, the victorious Republicans. And were they ever laughing!

And who could blame them? It was an impressive triumph indeed. Congress went to Republican control; Republicans everywhere won reelection and many Democrats dropped like flies; maybe even the California Assembly, for the first time since 1952, will have more Republicans than Democrats.

So, sure, there is merriment aplenty among the winners. The Republican Party is having a party, and for the GOP it's been a long time coming.

But listen to Rep. Newt Gingrich, the Georgian who's slated to become the first Republican Speaker of the House in 25 years. Although he has a right to sound off in a heady time, we're a little concerned about Newt, who in an interview Tuesday described the President and the First Lady as "counterculture McGovernicks" and the White House as a circle of "left-wing elitists."

Well, we won't make too terribly much of this. We know this won't be the last word on the presidency from Gingrich, a former college professor who is both intelligent and articulate, though prone to bashing. Politicians, especially those high on victory, are partisan animals. But at some point the party is over and the real work of government must be addressed and the name-calling and petty baiting and all partisan baloney has just got to stop.

And this is what we worry about. Some people just don't know when to stop, or even how to. In many parts of the country the campaigns were dominated by ugly, negative political advertising and personal attacks. Worse yet, many voters obviously were swayed by the negativity. Some politicians may now think that the way to be successful in governing is to keep up the negativity, as if the campaign were ongoing. We know that the Republicans in Washington, even before the champagne has stopped fizzing, are running against President Clinton, aiming to defeat him in two years and regain the White House. And this is their right--maybe even their genetic coding. But members of Congress such as Gingrich and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Texas Sen. Phil Gramm have another job, too, the one the taxpayers actually are paying them for--to help govern the country.

How is America to achieve sensible governmental decisions in a rowdy atmosphere of partisan bickering and upmanship? We thought that Clinton set the right tone in his press conference Wednesday. Of course he had just been taken to the cleaners, so the stance of humility was about the only posture left to him. Even so, his approach was right: We have a job to do, to help solve the country's problems and to work together as best we can, so let's do it.

Yes, let's. Stop horsing around and start governing. It's true the American people elected a whole lot of Republicans. But they also elected Bill Clinton President.

Maybe what the people want is for everyone to work together? And maybe if the Republicans don't at least give it a genuine try, in two years it will be the Democrats who will be laughing?

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