We are still living in deeply divided times

“We know what the best thing would be. It would be an agreement that sends the signal to our economy, and to the world, that after years of punting on the major fiscal challenges we face, 2013 is going to be different,” House Majority Leader John Boehner said. “What we can do is avert the cliff in a manner that serves as a down payment on — and a catalyst for — major solutions, enacted in 2013, that begin to solve the problem.”

“I’m not kicking the can down the road,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said earlier in the day.

Indeed, it seems that the Congressional leaders understood that our newly reelected president was serious about putting aside partisan interests aside in the hopes of reducing the deficit, the debt and avoiding the impending fiscal cliff.

This is surely what we need after a long, divisive campaign that has torn our country apart in a battle over class and party. ;

The American people clearly dismissed the negative campaign strategy that Governor Romney and, indeed, the GOP employed more generally. They rejected the extremism of Romney’s campaign and his lack of a positive vision, much less a vision for the future. ;

The Democrats also ran a divisive campaign themselves, but with a far superior ground game and, indeed, a message more palatable to the American people.

Hopefully both sides are truly committed to working together to avoid the fiscal cliff – it is what our nation needs most. But I remain skeptical that anything will happen in the short term without some sort of fiscal shock. For now, we are still in a divided, polarized country and Tuesday night’s election did little to change that. We still have divided government and two parties fundamentally hostile to one another. ;

There were, however, rays of hope for conciliation and bipartisanship in Tuesday’s election results.

Independent candidate Angus King’s victory in Maine is one such bright spot. King overcame more than $5 million spent by the RNC, Karl Rove and outside groups to win a solid 54 to 29 percent majority. His campaign was built on the pillars of moderation and consensus, a welcome sign of the type of politics that we need.

King’s victory is a big win for the forces of moderation and a clear rejection of extremism. It involved a winning coalition between Americans Elect, the group which succeeded in getting 50 state ballot access but failed to recruit a Presidential candidate, its visionary chairman Peter Ackerman and Mayor Michael Bloomberg who made a significant contribution to King’s campaign. And despite being outspent nearly 5 to 1, King still managed an overwhelming victory.

Indeed, exit polls showed that 70 percent of the American electorate wants bi-partisan, conciliatory government. This is exactly the kind of government that King will provide and the vision for American government that Mayor Bloomberg is working for us to realize.

Through his Super PAC, Independence USA, the mayor backed candidates in 19 victorious races across the country with each candidate selected for their moderate platform and, in many cases, strong support for gun control.

Another of the mayor’s other successes on Election night was the election of Gloria Negrete McLeod in California’s 35th Congressional district where she beat incumbent Joe Baca, who has received an “A” by the National Rifle Association and who co-sponsored an act which would remove restrictions on the interstate firearms business. And he was also the successful election of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, the first woman to fill this role and a strong gun control advocate who supports the repeal of the Florida loophole which allows Pennsylvanians who have been denied a gun license from getting a license in another state.

To be sure, there were some tough loses on the night with Val Demings falling just short in Florida and Bob Dold in Illinois. But these candidates, win or lose, were each moderate and inclusive, representatives of what must be the future of our political system.

We face real challenges in the next four years. We cannot afford to wait any longer on the impending fiscal cliff and it is clear that we will not be able to fashion a framework that addresses our mounting debt and deficit without bipartisan cooperation.

Steve Forbes predicted that we are headed for another recession during Obama’s second term. And the CBO has predicted the same. We need real action on debt, the kind that we have yet to see in Washington.

Lack of conciliation, moderation and cooperation is what has been dragging our political system down. The efforts of Americans Elect and particularly the efforts of Mayor Bloomberg are the first step to addressing this chasm.

Through their work they are promoting the type of bipartisanship we will need to address our mounting fiscal challenges and, in the process, craft a new, bipartisan vision for America.

We are living in dramatically polarized times and have little chance of making it out the other side without genuine bipartisan cooperation and reform. Mayor Bloomberg’s work takes us one step closer to that goal.

Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton and is currently working with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of “Fox News Insiders” Sundays on Fox News Channel and Mondays at 10:30 am ET on FoxNews.com Live. He is the author of ten books including,“Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What it Means for 2012 and Beyond” (Rowman and Littlefield 2012). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.

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