One of the most notable outcomes of the dramatic news that Osama bin Laden has been killed is the feeling of unity across the American political and social spectrums. The event has triggered a shared sense of achievement, pride and common purpose. It is a mood that the U.S. has not felt for years as increasingly polarized political debates, on both serious and trivial issues, gradually gutted the operational middle of the country’s political system.
After initial excitement, this moment of unity has largely been shrugged off by global markets as investors worry about the immediate risk of terrorist backlash and, more generally, the continued sense of malaise in the American economy. Yet bin Laden’s death has the potential to become a turning point for the country, and for President Barack Obama in particular, if the spirit of cooperation can be translated into broad-based, bipartisan progress on economic issues that are central to the long-term well-being of the country and the world.
These structural problems were years in the making, and they require structural solutions that will need to be implemented steadfastly for a number of years.
Until this week, any reasonable hopes for such solutions were dashed by the extreme polarization of the American political process. Indeed, many Washington veterans have lamented the unapologetic lack of purpose, collaboration and common vision. Sustained and serious debates had become the exception rather than the norm.
A palatable change in the country’s mood has the potential, but not the certainty, to change this. To seize the moment, Obama must push for a broad-based political agreement on a new set of economic solutions that America urgently needs to pursue. Here are a few to start with.