The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

November 21, 2012

John Sullivan, guest columnist: Challenge lies in finding way to meet in middle

PITTSBURG, Kan. — To secede or not secede should not be the question. Whether ’tis nobler to suffer the indignity of losing an election, without much recourse for the next four years, or to just throw in the towel, or move to Canada is not the reality of choice we citizens face.

The real challenge lies in finding ways to meet in the middle and avoid driving off the cliff like Thelma and Louise.

I am old. I have actually lived through and voted in 11 presidential elections. Sometimes I have been happy about the results, and sometimes I have been sad. As I told my students, sometimes you are the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug. Elections have winners and losers (usually), and elections do have consequences. Majority rule does indeed mean majority rule.

Sometimes I have even been downright indignant about the result, as in 2000, when I felt that the real winner of the contest was denied the right to take office by a Supreme Court 5-4 intervention that was unprecedented, unwarranted and, I think, ultimately unwise.

But I never threatened to secede from the union. It took me nearly a year to accept the leadership of the presidential annointee of 2000, and only when our nation was challenged in a direct and unimaginable way on Sept. 11 did I rally, emotionally, behind our politically appointed president. But rally I did. So did many of my fellow doubting Thomases who questioned the ascendancy of George W. Bush. For better or for worse, he was the only president we had, and I had to learn to accept that fact. Whether he achieved office as a result of electile dysfunction or mendacious manipulation of the electoral process was no longer the issue. There was reason to unite, and go forward. Just as there is today.  

At least today there is no doubt about the result of the election, no doubt about the result. It is clear who won, with a solid majority, albeit not a landslide. Most elections are never decided by landslide votes; they are more often a 50-plus to 49-minus situation. The difference in this last election involved more than 3.5 million popular votes, and 126 electoral votes. In the end, it wasn’t even close. No need for a recount. No hanging chads, No butterfly ballots. No court manipulation of the results. There was a clear winner.

In terms of coming to grips with the enormities of the challenges we as a nation face, the longer we kick the can down the road, the more perilous becomes our predicament. Failing to address and solve the issues — of entitlement reform, tax reform, climate change, energy independence and educational backsliding — will have far-reaching consequences for the hegemony of our great nation. We will either continue to lead or slide into the status of a back-bencher wannabe country whose best times are past and whose future is unsecured. That is the choice we face.

Much of the energy of the opposition party for the past four years has been focused on denying the legitimacy of the re-elected leader we have. The strategy was to hope he would fail and to trip up his efforts to succeed at every turn, even if it resulted in tripping up the country itself, temporarily. Help was on the way (they thought). Well, it didn’t happen, and we now have the same president for the next four years, and it’s time for the opposition to suck it up and deal, and live to fight another day. We all need to take a deep breath and not waste time on silly things like threatening to secede.

There are even some citizens on the other side of the spectrum who would be happy to see the red states of the former confederacy and cow country just go away. They are just as wrong as their secession-threatening brethren. In the end, we are still “E Pluribus unum,” one from many. Let’s just remember that. Our partisan thorns will surely resurface four years hence, but for now, in the immortal words of Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along?”

John T. Sullivan teaches at Missouri Southern State University and Pittsburg (Kan.) State University. He lives in Pittsburg.

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