President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center during the 57th Presidential
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center during the 57th Presidential Inauguration Monday. (Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

Monday has been an emotional day for York County Democrats who watched President Barack Obama's second-inauguration speech, an address they said managed to highlight issues important to his party while extending a hand to Republicans.

"Both sides of the aisle have to agree he delivered in an exceptional manner," said Stephen Snell, a 63-year-old Democrat from Windsor Township. "He's certainly an outstanding orator, and this is a day to be proud to be an American. It's hard not to get a tear in your eye watching that program."

Snell said the "orderly and peaceful transfer of power" was an inspiration for people to come together, though some people are divided by partisanship.

Obama seemed to appeal to his opposition several times, using the phrase "We the People" and calling for "reasoned debate" instead of "name-calling."

He said he took an oath to God and country, not "party or faction," and told his "fellow Americans" that "we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service."

Snell said he's "hopeful, but not optimistic" that some Republicans will find a way to compromise with the president.

"It's pretty clear the vast majority of Americans, like me, would like to see a little bit more decorum and cooperation in Washington," he said. "One of the things that has frustrated me the most is that we have allowed redistricting in this country to create congressmen that reflect extremes. When you're appealing only to people who are registered as you are, it makes it easier to be more extreme and harder to come to a compromise."

Bob Kefauver, who chairs the York County Democratic Party, shared Snell's sense of skepticism.

"It was clear to me that the overwhelming theme of the president's address was for the need for us to work together ..." he said. "Though I typically see myself as a glass-half-full kind of guy, I remain deeply concerned and hold very real reservations about whether those who opposed the president in the last four years would be willing to take those steps to meet him in the middle in the next four."

Kefauver said Obama's first-term concessions to Republicans accomplished nothing, though they did raise concern from some members of Obama's own party.

No 'spitballs'? While Snell and Kefauver think the divide will linger, some other Democrats said they think the time is right for compromise.

Francie Faubion, a 52-year-old "passive Democrat" from York Township, said constituents have been telling their elected officials to get along with each other.

"I think that they will be more attentive to (bipartisanship) going into this term," she said. "They're going to be a lot more aware of what hasn't worked. (Voters) don't want the bickering."

Legislators have "wasted a lot of time" on complaining, bickering, and finger-pointing instead of trying to find solutions, she said.

Sarah Speed, a 29-year-old Springettsbury Township resident and former Democratic candidate for State House, said Obama's speech was inspiring.

"At a time when we have been becoming so partisanship, the emphasis on one people, one future, was really the highlight of the speech..." she said. "This is our nation and our children, and it's going to stay that way."

She said she was encouraged to see high-profile Republicans prominently staged at the event, including former presidential candidate John McCain from Arizona and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingerich.

"I think there was clearly a move on both parties that this was an occasion for coming together and not for lobbing spitballs at each other," she said.

GOP: You first: Bob Wilson, who chairs the York County Republican Party, congratulated Obama on his second inauguration. He said he's hopeful the president is willing to "listen to the House of Representatives" and will compromise on debt-ceiling negotiations. Wilson said he hopes the president will "put all options on the table" for spending reductions, including "entitlement spending reform."

"If he wants to reach out with bipartisanship, he should lead by example and be willing to make the first step by allowing all options to remain on the table," Wilson said.

The issues: Snell said the speech touched on topics in which he feels strongly, including the necessary role of government to balance and provide a check on big businesses.

He also appreciated the mention of equal rights for gays, he said, surreal as it was to hear a president address it.

"There are members of my family impacted by that," he said. "Their rights ... to be able to marry ... are important issues to me. That is the civil rights issue of our era, I think, and it was pretty clear he wasn't ready to say that on his first inauguration, so he has moved on that."

Linda Small, a 52-year-old former State House candidate from New Freedom, said she was impressed with the scope of the speech and the emphasis on continuing the progress of the nation.

An environmentalist, she said she was most glad to hear the words "climate change" and the president's advice to seek science.

"I was pleased to see him mention global warming ... and for the president to devote a whole paragraph to explaining that I thought was very encouraging," she said.

- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.