Some of the most impressive images and quotes from Sandy and the election came from Gov. Chris Christie.

One in particular captured a message I think worth repeating as we move into a new year with a clearer picture of the lay of the political landscape.

Shortly after Sandy hit Gov. Christie was quick to let media reps, pundits and politicos from both sides of the aisle know that there are things that, like Sandy’s awesome winds, just blew all the politicking and bloviating right away.

I can’t quote him verbatim—he’s the Governor after all and can get away with being as colorful as he likes—but the essence of what he said was that if they thought he was going to get caught up in that high-school-cliquish mentality when his beloved New Jersey was under attack, they didn’t know him very well. Then the Governor took a lot of heat for partnering up with President Obama during the first days of the crisis.

I was thinking at the time of how those criticisms and those juvenile speculations were a stark indication of how out of whack everything is these days.

It’s like what happened in the wake of the onslaught of the five-year economic crisis we’ve been dealing with and the inability of the political system to come together, even temporarily, to deal with it. Too busy making political points to just deal with the crisis and then get back to politicking when appropriate. Democrats also jumped on the bandwagon crowing about Christie’s so-called hero worship of the trappings of the presidency, not to mention the “Bruuuce” phone call, and its implications for the strange bedfellows speculations.

They all miss the point. The point is we all need to be adult enough to separate politicking from small “p” politics. The entertainment of a good zinger against the other side, which Gov. Christie is no stranger to, should not to be confused with the act of governing.

What does all this have to do with developmental disabilities? I believe this disaffect between political gamesmanship and governing has, and will continue to affect public services unless we take steps to change it. And, as we all know, people with disabilities and their families rely on public services for the supports they need.

For example, as we’ve discussed in this forum before, the ambitious plans here in New Jersey to reduce the reliance on Developmental Centers should now be a collective effort. Old battles should be put aside. The direction is clear. The politicking and grandstanding should be over. Now it is the time for governing and implementation. We all need to work together to make sure it happens right.

This is what needs to happen in Washington as well. The election has served, as elections do, to more clearly define a united direction. The one overriding message from it in my opinion is that a majority of those who voted want to move forward not back on a number of public policy initiatives.

President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders put forth a framework to begin to move the country’s failing health care system forward. There are many good things in ObamaCare (if the President can embrace the name so can I) but the creators of it always acknowledged that it was far too complicated a system to be completely fixed in one grand swoop. It will be years in the changing and we all need to continue to insist that all the players—Democrats, Republicans, bureaucrats, advocates, providers, everyone—work cooperatively to get it right.

The original framework is impressive. Expansions of Medicaid, changes to Medicare, eliminating the preexisting condition, covering younger people longer while they figure out their health care portfolio, insurance exchanges and, yes, even the mandate. These are all good things, hopefully preserved by this election.

Entitlements will need to be addressed further, however. Medicaid and Medicare are so vital to the health and well-being of all citizens—including, and often especially, people with disabilities—that we can’t afford not to ensure those programs longevity. As we move forward with the economic challenges ahead these programs must evolve to be even stronger.

Finally, there are provisions in the current law that can reap substantial savings from the overall system and that will help with the preservation of health care safety nets as well as the overall economy .

I hope negotiations about how to move forward don’t backtrack on those built-in savings. Much of the politicking rhetoric against the health care law was not grounded in fact. The Affordable Care Act is light years away from socialized medicine. It is not even close to single payer, which many believe is the best way to hold down costs while providing universal coverage. The political hysteria has so obscured what the Act really does that part of the effort to move forward with a “governing” solution to a real fix of health care will need to be a reeducation of what we need to accomplish that, what ObamaCare does toward that end, what it doesn’t do and what changes need to be made to get it all done.

We have a tendency in this country to want everything today. We need to get over that. Fixing the health care system, preserving entitlements, expanding alternative energy sources, climate change, deficit reduction, these and other complex domestic issues will require a maturity that has been lacking. These are long term problems that will require long term solutions.

People with developmental disabilities, their families, neighbors and colleagues, as well as all the rest, are wrapped up in these challenges. The connections on the first two items—health care and entitlements—are clear. But longer term neglect of energy and climate will seriously affect all of us. The deficit looms over all public services and absent action by January could result in some serious cuts to public services.

As citizens we all need to pay close attention to our elected officials and demand that, in these serious times, they step up to the plate. There will be plenty of time to politick. Now is the time to govern.

I believe our Governor showed how it’s done over the past several months. He earned sexy political zinger points at the Republican convention and subsequent campaign outings for Gov. Romney. Then, when Sandy hit he knew that game playing was just that and needed to be put aside. His job was to govern. To lead his state out its worst natural disaster in memory. To be an adult and take care of business.

I hope the rest of the recently reelected and elected follow that worthy example and move things forward when and where it counts the most.

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Disability in Focus