It's one thing to say that President Barack Obama didn't win a sweeping mandate in his re-election last week.
It's quite another it's ridiculous, actually to pretend that voters didn't support the president's key policies.
If Obama made anything clear during the campaign, it was that he wanted to keep the Bush-era income tax cuts for the middle class, while having families earning $250,000 or more a year pay more. "The American people understood what they were getting," he said Wednesday in his first post-election news conference.
As Obama outlined, Congress should promptly enact legislation to keep the tax cuts that benefit 98 percent of Americans that both parties agree should remain. That would prevent an average tax hike of $2,000 for middle-income families next year and pull the nation back from the Jan. 1 "fiscal cliff" the tax increases and automatic spending cuts that economists agree would almost certainly plunge America back into recession.
With that out of the way, the White House and congressional leaders of both parties would have some breathing room to negotiate the exact terms of higher taxes on the wealthy, as well as longer-term reforms in the tax code and on entitlements to cut the federal deficit.
That's the right approach.
Exit polls suggested that most voters and not just those who cast ballots for Obama would back such a strategy.
Many Republicans in Congress, however, are stubbornly opposing higher taxes for those who can most afford it, who also happen to be many of their most generous campaign donors.
Elections do have consequences. GOP leaders need to accept that Obama and his policies prevailed and negotiate in good faith.
In contrast to the Republican recalcitrance, the president is reaching out. He huddled Tuesday with leaders of labor and liberal groups, met Wednesday with some high-profile CEOs and plans to gather Friday with congressional leaders.
While he is adamant he won't extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, as he did in 2010 in the depths of the Great Recession, Obama says he is open to negotiation and new ideas on how exactly the highest-earning Americans would pay more.
There's no good reason to drag this out until the very last minute. Brinkmanship like last year's debt ceiling crisis will only scare consumers, spook the markets and endanger the fragile economic recovery.
If there's one other message from last week's election, it's that Americans are sick and tired of Washington's political games getting in the way of the good of the country.