David Harsanyi

Unity: n. the state of being one; oneness -- especially when your chosen political party happens to win an election.

Barack Obama is now my president. Though I wonder whether irascible Democrats who rode around with those snazzy bumper stickers reading "He's not my president" for the past eight years realize the irony of their call for national harmony.

Let's hope there's none.

Winning elections is one thing; governing is quite another. It is impossible to deny that Obama ran one of the sharpest, most diligent and exhilarating campaigns in modern American history or, for that matter, that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has won a resounding mandate to run the country.

That only means we need a robust and principled opposition.

My children continually are lectured by well-meaning adults about the mystifying power culled from our differences, the strength we derive from our disparate upbringing, and the power of diversity.

So why, one wonders, does this belief not extend to our politics and ideology? Why do we strive to shed individuality and become herds of devotees and shills?

America should be a place that features spirited debate, a place where partisanship is reignited in a fury of righteous opposition, a place where Republicans find a spine and oppose harmony whenever appropriate.

And I don't mean a mindlessly cantankerous opposition. Nor do I mean resistance to all Democratic policy prescriptions. No, I only am talking about judges, energy policy, taxes, foreign policy, health care, the budget, education policy, international trade, free trade, gun control, Social Security and about 30 to 40 other policy questions.

In this regard, Obama is faced with a similar predicament George Bush wrestled during his own presidency: too much unity in Washington.

Under Bush, the fissures between factions in the Republican Party -- fiscally conservative, socially conservative, moderate -- began appearing in subtle ways early and eventually undermined the right's consensus and destroyed the party.

Obama will enter the White House claiming the mantle of unity. Yet on a practical level, it's impossible to please everyone. Moreover, despite the momentous victory (the country's first African-American president), he still has about 48 percent of the nation opposing his agenda -- some bitterly.

For many conservatives, Obama -- who has displayed a thoughtful curiosity of his opponents' ideological arguments more than most politicians -- is less frightening than the coupling of Obama with the shrill, knee-jerk partisanship of majority leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. They don't believe in unity; they believe in victory.