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On Tuesday night, a divided and passionate American electorate cast their votes after months of intense spending and campaigning. While both parties portrayed the election as a referendum, the voters responded by embracing the status quo: President Barack Obama was reelected, while pending ongoing recounts, the Senate became slightly more Democratic and the House, despite a few possible Democratic gains, remained firmly Republican. Next year, we will see a Congress and administration that looks very similar to the current one, possibly even more partisan depending on the final make-up.
Before inauguration day, the country must face some tough decisions that will be made during a time of transition. With the approaching “fiscal cliff” needing to be addressed as well as the long-term problems of debt reduction, prudent spending, and tax reform constantly being pointed to as must-dos, the two months between now and the convening of the 113th Congress will be fraught with uncertainty.
The association community also has association management issues that need to be tackled. With federal agencies continuing to limit employees’ ability to travel to association meetings, the community needs to work with Congress and the administration to emphasize the value of the public/private partnerships created through these meetings.
In addition, with the reelection of the president, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s implementation will continue. How implementation and creation of further regulations will impact the economy, employers and the public remains to be seen. In particular, the creation of state exchanges will be vital to the law’s success; only 15 states have authorized the creation of exchanges. With the uncertainty around tax reform, issues like the charitable deduction – and how association foundations will adjust if that is modified – will continue to be a concern.
But, as with every election, it provides an opportunity for the association community. Associations employ more than 1.6 million people nationwide, and with 60 percent of voters saying in exit polling that the economy was their top issue, all associations have an excellent chance to inform the new Congress about the value of their own industry or profession to society.
All associations have a story to tell about the good work their members are doing every day, and as the new Congress and the second-term Obama administration face the challenges ahead, associations need to present themselves as solutions to many of the problems facing this country. The association community is creating jobs, providing worker benefits and training, and improving the entire economy every day. I encourage all associations to visit our Power of A campaign site (www.thepowerofa.org) to see examples of how they can tell their story as well as contribute their own examples.
Graham is CEO of the American Society of Association Executives, Washington. Details: www.asaecenter.org.