The Loyal Opposition
I remember wondering at the end of the 2000 election, which never seemed to end, whether Al Gore would be able to let the Supreme Court’s decision against him stand with grace, even though he clearly believed it was incorrect? Would he be able to encourage the millions of Americans who voted for him, more than had voted for his opponent as it turned out, to be at peace with the Court’s decision and become what we refer to as “the loyal opposition”?
In his concession speech, the Vice President said, “Just moments ago, I spoke with George W. Bush and congratulated him on becoming the 43rd president of the United States. And I promised him that I wouldn’t call him back this time. I offered to meet with him as soon as possible so that we can start to heal the divisions of the campaign and the contest through which we’ve just passed.”
If Donald Trump wins, I can picture Hillary Clinton saying these words, with great difficulty to be sure, but saying them. She as much as said them already when Zach Galifianakis asked her if she would move to Canada if Trump wins. Before admitting how much she regretted agreeing to do his show “Between Two Ferns,” she said, “I would try to keep him from destroying the United States.” Zach asked her if she would lead the civil war. With total deadpan she replied, “I wouldn’t take up arms. I think that would be a little extreme.”
But not for some Trump supporters. The Boston Globe reports that a 50-year-old contractor named Dan Bowman said, “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it. We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take. . . . I would do whatever I can for my country.”
I am trying to picture Donald Trump saying something like Al Gore said 16 years ago when he said, “Each time, both the victor and the vanquished have accepted the result peacefully and in a spirit of reconciliation. So let it be with us.” I cannot picture it. I can only picture him saying the election was rigged and blaming the media. I can picture him saying that hers will be the worst presidency in history and that crooked Hillary will be the first president to go to jail while in office. I can picture him riling his supporters against her and the office of the president in a way that is not only dangerous to her as a person but to us as a nation.
I remember reading a book written by a secret service agent shortly after President Obama was elected that described the number of threats made against him, both while he was campaigning for the office and after elected, and how they had gone up over 400% over any other president before him. I never would have thought that a woman in that office could be more personally at risk that, and yet it may be so under these present circumstances.
Where is the voice that will teach us how to be the loyal opposition if our candidate does not win this hotly and cruelly contested election? Will we listen? Will our blood cool and our spirit remember the words Mitt Romney offered so beautifully in his concession speech: “I so wish — I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader. And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.”
I pray for the next president, for our nation, and for the one who is not chosen and his or her followers perhaps even more, for the strength and peace of the loyal opposition.