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Glenn Reynolds received an email yesterday that he termed “depressing.” Upon reading it, I agree with him.
The correspondent starts by identifying himself as a libertarian who supported George Bush until “Bush fatigue” set in recently. But what depressed Reynolds (and what should concern all of us) is how this gentleman would react to an Obama presidency:
This is surely small of me, but if Obama wins, I plan on giving him as much of a chance as the Democrats gave George Bush. I will gleefully forward every paranoid anti-Obama rumor that I see, along with YouTube footage of his verbal missteps. I will laugh and email heinous anti-Obama photoshop jobs, and maybe even learn photoshop myself to create some. I’ll buy anti-Obama books, and maybe even a “Not My President” t-shirt. I’m sure that the mainstream bookstores won’t carry them, but I’ll be on the lookout for anti-Obama calendars and stuff like that. I will not wish America harm, and if the country is hurt (economically, militarily, or diplomatically) I will truly mourn. But i will also take some solace that it occurred under Obama’s watch, and will find every reason to blame him personally and fan the flames.
Obama’s thuggish behavior thus far in this election cycle – squashing free speech, declaring any criticism of his policies to be “racist” (a word that happily carries little weight with sensible people these days), associating with the likes of Ayers, Wright, and ACORN - suggests that I won’t have to scrape for reasons to really viscerally dislike Obama and his administration. And even if he wins, his campaign’s “get out the vote fraud” activities are enough to provide people like me with a large degree of “plausible deniability” as to whether he is actually legitimately the president.
I’ve seen a President that I am generally-inclined to like get crapped on for eight years, and I’ve seen McCain and Palin (honorable people both, despite policy differences I may have with them) get crapped on through this election season. If the Democrats think that a President Obama is going to get some sort of honeymoon from the folks who didn’t vote for him, as a wise man once said: heh.
Civics 101 people; the guy who gets the most votes, wins.
You can talk about “voter fraud” and “stealing elections” all you want but the fact remains that if Obama is certified by the electoral college and the House of Representatives as President of the United States, that ends the discussion in our republic. There is no more important aspect of democracy than the minority accepting the will of the majority. The constitution gives the minority certain protections against getting steamrolled by the majority. But it doesn’t give the minority the right to torpedo the legitimacy of the winner.
This is more than a question of “fair play” or being a “sore loser.” The Constitution says we have only one president at a time. Given the importance of that office, it is stark raving lunacy to seek to destroy the man occupying it.
The fact that the Democrats and the left have acted like 2 year olds the last 8 years doesn’t mean that if Obama is elected we should throw the same infantile tantrums and look for ghosts in the machine – or accuse the opposition of foul play without a shred of physical proof, only the paranoid imaginings whipped up by people who knew exactly what they were doing – undermining the legitimacy of the elected leader of the United States government.
I can certainly understand the desire given voice by Reynolds correspondent. There would be something hugely satisfying in giving back to the left in spades what they have done to Bush and the Republicans for the last 8 years. But think about it for a minute. Our country is in a helluva fix – the worst since I’ve been alive and probably the worst since the eve of the great depression. The only comparable crisis in my lifetime is the one faced by Reagan when he came into office.
Reagan’s challenge was more a crisis of confidence than anything really systemically wrong. He restored that confidence. And he did it with the help of loyal, patriotic Democrats. Not just the 70 or so “Boll Weevils” who actually voted with Reagan on occasion in order to get his program through Congress. Speaker Tip O’Neil could have thrown a huge monkey wrench into the early efforts of Reagan to cut taxes and reduce spending. But he didn’t. To his eternal credit, O’Neil chose to fight for his principles while giving Reagan’s program a chance in Congress.
The two adversaries fought tooth and nail for every vote in the House (the GOP controlled the Senate at the time). The played hardball politics with a zest that seems to be missing in these days of obstructionism and spiteful rhetoric. In the end, despite O’Neil’s best efforts, he lost fair and square – a point he deliberately made in his televised call of congratulations to Reagan in the aftermath of the vote.
The very liberal O’Neil – as tough a political brawler as you’ll find anywhere – was also an American first and a Democrat second. He was a politician from the old school who accepted Reagan’s election as a matter of course. It never occurred to him to try and delegitimize the only president he had. The two men liked each other personally but despised each other’s politics. And yet, they were able to work together to bring America back from a deep, dark place that threatened our future.
This is how it should be. And whether Obama wins – if he wins – by one vote or millions shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you believe the reason he won was because the press was in the tank for him, or ACORN cheated, or McCain didn’t get a fair shake, or any other legitimate or illegitimate reason you can think of. At the very least, Barack Obama will deserve our acknowledgement that he is the legitimate elected president of the United States.
That doesn’t mean we have to slavishly follow him or join his cult like groupies. What it means is that where what he proposes to do is reasonable and doesn’t conflict with our principles, he should expect our support. It means that we don’t have to delegitimize his presidency to oppose him either. People of good will and good conscience can disagree without tearing each other and the country apart. And in this day and age, such an outcome would be unbearable.
An Obama election will mean changes – not all of them for the better. So be it. We will fight like hell against what we believe to be wrong. But we not do it by trying to delegitimize the elected president. Get personal, sure. Satirize and make fun of him, absolutely. Argue on the merits, most definitely.
But when push comes to shove and crisis erupts somewhere in the world involving American interests – and no president in recent memory has escaped such a challenge – I plan on backing my president’s play. I may give voice to skepticism about the path he chooses. This is our right and duty.
But I will not wish that he fail nor will I work to see that he does. The fact that I even have to mention this shows how foreign an idea this is to both the right and the left. The unbalanced hatred on the right directed against President Clinton was followed up by the even kookier and dangerous rage by the left against Bush. Perhaps its time for all of us to grow up a little and start acting like adults where the survival of our republic depends on the two sides not trying to eye-gouge their way to dominance.
This may not be self-evident to some of you younger readers but this was the America I grew up in and which existed until about 20 years ago. Politics was just as raucous a game then. There was no pussyfooting. It was a game played for keeps and played to the hilt. There was little love lost personally or professionally between the two sides.
But there was also a recognition that the will of the majority was, in the end, respected and granted legitimacy. This included recognizing that there was only one president and that even if we disagreed with him, that didn’t mean he was an impostor. The fact that the 2000 election was so close (and the results confirmed by a consortium of independent media who took the time to recount the Florida votes several different ways proving that Bush did indeed win the state) no doubt was frustrating for the losers. But the idea that after 8 years the left could never get over the results and indeed, showed a derangement toward the president even after a still close but decisive win in 2004 proves that it is up to us on the right to bring our politics back to a rough equilibrium so that we can work together in these perilous times.
I plan on doing just that – while still skewering my political opponents with as much zest and glee as I can muster.