A quick impression for you:
One Side: “UP YOUR ASS, BITCHES!”
The Other Side: “WE WILL FIGHT YOU EVIL BASTARDS TILL OUR DYING BREATH!”
With some exceptions (and God bless them), this appears to be the state of the electorate right now. Full disclosure: even though I’m apparently a one-percenter, I’m glad that Romney lost because I think a Romney presidency would have been slightly more disastrous than four more years of Obama, and the Republican Party has, in my view, pretty much been in the process of a slow-motion implosion for the better part of the last decade. (And what the Tea Party movement became was a contributor to that implosion, as opposed to the galvanizing revival, as many conservatives have painted it.) What I had hoped — but not expected — is that, after a Romney loss (not to be confused with an Obama victory, which isn’t quite what happened last night), Americans would wake up and realize that they actually have to work together to find common ground and goals once the dust settles; that they are not enemies, but mere opponents. Alan Jacobs put it brilliantly:
I have seen (we all have seen) more and more articles, blog posts, and comments premised on the assumption that the writer’s political enemies really are enemies — wicked people bent on the destruction of all that is good and right in the world.
As for me, I don’t think people who disagree with me — about abortion, politics, religion, literature, whatever — are, on balance, any more wicked than I am. I just think that on the points where we disagree they happen to be wrong. That shouldn’t be such a difficult distinction to keep in mind.
After the North won the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln was re-elected president, the United States was probably in the most fragile position in its entire history. Some historically ignorant partisans may wish to claim that we’ve almost never been so divided, but until states start seceding from the Union and booting federal employees from their borders by force of arms, I call B.S. any such sentiment. To say that political tensions still ran high at the time of Lincoln’s second inauguration would be a fundamentally idiotic understatement. To their credit, both Romney and the president struck conciliatory notes in their respective concession and victory speeches. I don’t think either one put it quite as succinctly and eloquently as Lincoln, for whom, and for whose country at the time, the stakes could not have been higher:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
The United States hasn’t literally been at war with itself these last four years; the politics of this election cycle (or the last several) haven’t literally created widows and orphans, and the nation’s wounds are metaphorical. Yet to judge by the rhetoric I’ve seen on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and video clips this morning, you’d think that Obama had just kneecapped grandma with a tire iron, or that Romney’s evil minions had been dragging people out of their beds at night and slapping them facedown on the guillotine. This is not a war, people, and just as losing losing political ground in an election does not mean losing the soul of the country, winning ground in an election does not equate to a unilateral endorsement of a monolithic (partisan) vision of progress. What it means is that, for the next two-to-six years, this particular set of people has been elected to debate, discuss, compromise, legislate, administrate, and generally do the hard work of running this country on its citizens’ behalf. That’s it.
So if you’re out there gloating or sulking, put a cork in it. Put on your big boy/big girl pants, wipe the spittle from your mouth, shake hands with your opponent, and get back to the business of being good neighbors. If you can’t do that, then it means you’ve never been interested in democracy, but domination. Show a little charity, please. ☕