Mr. Obama will now have to govern the America he so relentlessly sought to divide—and without a mandate beyond the powers of the Presidency. Democrats will hold the Senate, perhaps with an additional seat or two. But Republicans held the House comfortably, so their agenda was hardly repudiated. The two sides will have to reach some compromise on the tax cliff, the spending sequester and the debt limit, but Speaker John Boehner can negotiate knowing he has as much of a mandate as the President.
These columns have viewed this election as more consequential than others for a single reason—ObamaCare. Tax rates do economic damage when they rise, but they can be cut again. Regulations can be adapted to or phased out. Spending can be cut. But the Affordable Care Act will spread like termites in the national economy and public fisc. Mr. Obama will no doubt use his second term to consolidate this liberal entitlement dream, with its ultimate goal of single-payer health care.
Some of our conservative friends will argue that Mr. Obama’s victory thus represents a decline in national virtue and a tipping point in favor of the “takers” over the makers. They will say the middle class chose Mr. Obama’s government blandishments over Mr. Romney’s opportunity society. We don’t think such a narrow victory of an incumbent President who continues to be personally admired justifies such a conclusion.