President Thomas Jefferson said “the Revolution of 1800” was even more important than that of 1776 since the 1800 U.S. presidential election marked the first time a nation held a free and fair election in which the ruling party lost but still let the winning opposition party take over the government with no violence. Every four years since then we Americans have had a peaceful revolution of ballots instead of bullets.
We have again shown the world how a free and democratic citizenry can wage a long, fiercely argued debate on the major public policy issues of the day but still conclude it with a legitimate election in which each citizen gets to vote, and both sides abide by the outcome without a single shot fired. This is a remarkable victory of Judeo-Christian civilization and Western liberal democracy that so many nations have never known.
To those whose candidate won, this is a time for rejoicing with the realization it is the duty of all citizens to monitor the public conduct of elected leaders to make sure they honor their promises and, most importantly, obey our Constitution. It is no time to treat those whose candidate lost in any way you would not want to be treated.
To those whose candidate lost, as the Bible so often says, “Fear not.” Realize your side made its case and influenced a great many people. Your campaign may well have planted seeds that will flower to victory in future elections. America’s wise and wonderful Founding Fathers devised such a splendid system of constitutional separation of powers coupled with checks and balances that no branch of government — much less one man — can do anything without the ultimate consent of the other two. Thus, combined with national elections every two years, our constitutional government has proved to be remarkably self-correcting.
For all the hurt feelings out there, know our countrymen have weathered light years’ worse travails: the American Revolution, slavery, the War Between the States, terrible depressions, two world wars, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and more. Despite our differences, we have repeatedly proven that, when unified in a great effort, we as a people can triumph over many a fierce foe. Indeed, to paraphrase William Faulkner, the United States “will not merely endure (but) prevail.”
My travels in China this century have further reassured me about man’s resilience. From 1949 to 1976, the Chinese endured a 27-year totalitarian communist dictatorship that caused the deaths of perhaps 65 million people through famine and execution. Perhaps never before or since have so many innocent people suffered on such a grand scale due to political tyranny.
Yet, since Mao Zedong’s 1976 death, the Chinese have created a comparative renaissance providing them with unprecedented freedom, opportunity, education and prosperity. In record time, China has gone from being one of the world’s poorest nations to having an economy second only to ours. If the Chinese can recover so quickly from the horrific destruction of Chairman Mao, surely we Americans can recover from whatever mistakes our leaders make.
Do not allow your emotional well-being to be hijacked by politicians and propagandists who will never even see you. Our world runs from our right ear all the way to our left ear. So don’t choose to obsess about negative matters we cannot control.
And we Americans are still blessed to live in the most free, democratic, equal rights-respecting, opportunity-rich, prosperous and powerful nation in the history of God’s green globe. For all our differences, we Americans enjoy far more in common than we realize.
So, instead of reflexively castigating the winners or losers in the recent election, let us obey Christ’s Golden Rule to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as well as reaffirm our commitment to fulfill President Kennedy’s call to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
May God continue to bless America and may we labor to always be worthy of his many blessings.
Douglas Young is a political science professor at the University of North Georgia, Gainesville.