The fundamental thing that distinguishes the United States from everywhere else in the world is our collective commitment to our Constitution. What does that mean? It’s not a long or complex document. It defines the structure of the government (legislative, executive, judicial), and lays out a series of rights in the first ten amendments. But most fundamentally, it provides for an electoral process for selecting our legislative and executive officials. Commitment to the Constitution means accepting the results of the elections, and the subsequent peaceful transfer of power. During my entire life up to now, that has been how it worked. Now, not so much.
Admittedly, the acceptance of the exercise of the governmental powers by the electoral winners took a while to get to the recent effective unanimity. Students’ of some of the more obscure corners of American history may be familiar with the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 (an armed uprising against federal authority during George Washington’s second term), or with the convention of New England states held in Hartford during the winter of 1814/15 to consider secession in light of the hardships of the War of 1812. And then of course, there was the Civil War in the 1860s, precipitated by the election of a President from the newly-formed anti-slavery Republican Party, and the attempted secession from the union of a group of states in the interim between Lincoln’s election and inauguration. But the very bloody Civil War really put an end to these things, at least for about a century and a half.
Consider ten years ago, when Barack Obama was elected President.Read More