Nobody likes to lose. But defeats can prove advantageous if used as a learning tool. Newt Gingrich lost his first two congressional campaigns, but won his third. Twenty years after his first defeat, he changed the nation with the Contract With America.
Those who may be disheartened and dismayed over Tuesday's election results might want to consider this: Our nation is strong and resilient, and the results must be used as an opportunity to learn rather than an opportunity to lay blame.
President Obama won. A sitting president always has an advantage, but with a listless economy, high unemployment and Obama's debilitating debate performance, Republican nominee Mitt Romney looked as if he had a real chance — and he did.
Two short campaign takeaways:
1. Liberals' feelings beat conservative facts.
2. Obama's emotional appeal that he cares about people trumps conservative facts. Obama says he cares, and people believe.
Republicans can talk about the 23 million people who are underemployed or unemployed, about the 60 percent rise in debt since Obama took office, about the regulations that are strangling business, but if voters do not believe they are cared about, they can't listen.
Takeaway: If people don't believe you care about them, they can't listen to you and process facts. To test, try this with people you love: Tell them you don't care about them, and then try to have a facts-based conversation. They will focus not on the facts but on why you don't love them.
Republicans are terrible communicators. They busily compile facts but forget to reach out to women and minorities. Then they wonder why those groups won't listen to or accept their facts.
Republicans should include women and minorities in their policy discussions and then ask them how best to communicate to their communities that they do care. Only after that would it help to point out how Republican policies would benefit those groups.
Takeaway: Inclusion is the solution.
Where are we after the elections?
Obama managed to grind out a re-election victory.
The House of Representatives has remained in solid Republican control and will be led by Speaker John Boehner.
The Democrats have retained the Senate and will be led by Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Our national government remains split between Republicans and Democrats. This means that, to make progress, the two parties must work with one another.
We have shown as recently as last week that we can do it: The American people responded to Hurricane Sandy by working together and helping people. Our country is more important than either party.
The American people want their political leaders to work together for the good of our nation.
Boehner has control of the House schedule for bills. He has the opportunity to set the tone and agenda. Boehner should schedule a series of small, incremental, nondivisive bills that Republicans and Democrats would both want to vote for. They could be about anything: The color of the carpet on the floor of the House, a special thanks our troops.
The purpose of the bills would be to create an environment where Republicans and Democrats would work together to pass bills that help America.
The passage of these bills should include photo ops for both sides that tout Americans working together for our future.
Boehner would then be able to go to Obama as a speaker who is willing to work with Democrats. This would force Obama to begin to work with Republicans.
The public would become used to a Congress working together, and would wonder why the Senate and president were not able to place our country first.
With a narrow victory this election, Obama does not have a mandate, but he has an opportunity to carry out the high ideals of his victory speech.
"You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours," Obama said Tuesday night. "And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do."
Work to do indeed. With a slim win this election, Obama has the opportunity to go beyond flowery rhetoric. He can return to Washington, reach out to Boehner and begin the real work of putting country first.
Jackie Gingrich Cushman is the co-author, along with her father, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of the book "5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours." Read more reports from Jackie Gingrich Cushman — Click Here Now.