Winning and Losing

Are certainly all part of playing the game, so I’m not exactly sure why everyone is so upset….

“The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.” ~ George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

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Ah, the misuse of history continues.  My current favorite news items are all of the unhappy voters whose candidate did not win the election either saying they want to secede or move to Canada (heres a news flash, it doesn’t really matter who won).  In case you missed all of US History, we are played out the debate about whether states can secede or not.  It was called the Civil War.  It was terrible and extremely bloody, and brought damage to both sides.  Ultimately, the sanctity of the federal government under the Constitution won.  Or if you really want to bring it back to the founding fathers, “join or die,” as Benjamin Franklin’s famous political cartoon put it.  Or we could say, united we stand, divided we fall.  All of which boils down to, secession is not an option, the union depends on unity.  That is not to say that perhaps the United States of America is sacred and inviolate, and will never change.  We certainly could have wars or revolutions lying in our future that could dramatically alter the landscape of our nation.  But the day a state is actually allowed by the rest to secede is the day the United States (some key words there) dies.  The founding fathers knew it, and so did Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest Presidents.  There is a reason he thought the Civil War worth fighting, after all.

See, the thing is, what makes America dramatically different from other nations with democracies and elected office holders, is that we have a tradition of peaceful transitions of power.  Yes, people complain, yes someone wins and someone loses, and people go home unhappy, but for the most part, our tradition is we accept that, and are comforted by the knowledge that our voice and our candidate could win in the next election.  And we expect that when he does, the current person in power will hand over power peacefully to him.  Threatening to secede or saying you are going to move to Canada because of an election’s results is like slapping the founding fathers in the face and urinating on the Constitution, not to mention completely disregarding over 200 years of American history.  Washington began it.  He stepped down peacefully so that someone else could take his place, so he did not rule forever.  But it was John Adams and Thomas Jefferson who defined it, and who firmly ingrained the idea that power gets handed over peacefully.  They upheld the ideals of their Revolution, even under the most bitter political circumstances because what was important was that our democratic republic actually work, and work right.

The election of 1800 was brutal.  It was bitter and ugly, and characterized by nasty personal attacks, as well as outright slander from both sides.  Jefferson and Adams, though friends, had staunchly different ideas of how the new American government should function, and they were backed by followers rabidly opposed to the other side and everything they stood for and thought the government should stand for (sound familiar?).  When the election was over and the results were finally in (after some other interesting developments), the incumbent, Adams, had lost, and Jefferson had won.  Did Adams and his supporters move to Canada?  Did he lead his side in a revolution or a call for secession?  Did they wander around the country whining that he had lost?  Nope, he obeyed the Constitution and the will of the people, packed his bags, and retired to his home in Massachusetts.  So did those who had supported him.  Crazy, I know.  During a time in history when bitter disputes over who should rule pretty much always ended in bloodshed, Adams just handed the reins over to Jefferson and walked away.  Why?  Because unity was more important than continued fighting.  He lost, he accepted it, and he moved on, and so did the nation.  That is one of the fundamental things that makes us great, that our political tradition calls upon elected officials who lose to go home, not to take up arms, and the government continues to function, and serve everyone regardless of who was the winner and who was the loser.  Sometimes being revolutionary lies in not having a revolution.

Res Publica

 

Current Affairs:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-20301477

http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/07/politics/us-election-bluster/index.html

Documentation without Representation:

Benjamin Franklin’s Join or Die Political Cartoon, 1754

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9c/Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die.jpg

George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp

 

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