"Do unto others 20% better than you would expect them to do unto you, to correct for subjective error."~Linus Pauling, Double Nobel Laureate for Chemistry and the Peace prize.
A recent column in the Saturday Forum (January 12) opined, in despair, that the obvious conclusion to be drawn from the results of the 2012 Presidential election was that public decency had now fallen to the charge of a brave, heroic few who predictably are anti Obama conservatives. Upon consideration, I would like to offer a somewhat different (certainly less wrought up) interpretation. It is this: After having engaged in the fairly conventional quadrennial exercise of electing an American president, the candidate who ran the better campaign won the day. Furthermore, our "decency," over which much unnecessary hand-wringing has occurred, remains not only intact, but vibrant.
While the bitterness that follows hard on the heels of losing a major election is understandable, surely we can muster enough respect for those who simply hold differing political opinions, to resist libeling them with a misguided charge of indecency. I contend that our core values as a people remain viable, because it seems to me what is implied by the civic minded action of taking the time to hear the candidates out, then voting in accordance with one's conscience is inherently patriotic and decent, regardless of the outcome of any given election cycle.
So to those given to predicting the most dire repercussions because their candidate came up short in the eyes of the electorate, I say, all evidence to the contrary. In our history, both sides of our ongoing debates and political skirmishes have experienced victory at the polls, and miraculously the country endures. The republic lives on, and the sky still depends from the framework of the heavens.
If decency resides only on one side of the political spectrum, one wonders just what nation voted to re-elect president Obama. If the demographic analyses of his re-election are to be believed, then he won in convincing fashion on a promise to raise taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Americans, while refusing to raise them on the middle class and the poorest among us. He ran on this and was re-elected. In days of old, we called such a result "The Will Of The People," and it seems to me that those who have trouble accepting the election's results, may indeed have a problem with democracy itself. There is never a guarantee that your side will win. However, your chances improve if you forcefully and elegantly make your case.
There is an old bromide often heard among our statesmen that runs, "Decent people can disagree." I submit that this is exactly what has happened. But as they face the week of Obama's second Inaugural, conservatives seem to be having a more difficult time than usual accepting the reality about what the election has meant. Clearly, an unprecedented coalition composed of White and African Americans, Latinos, Women, Asian Americans, and young Americans came together to see to it that their voices were heard. It remains to be seen whether conservatives in the rank and file, and more importantly, the leadership, will make heads or tails of what is staring them in the face.
But claiming a loss of common decency would seem to be a poor choice. I for one, am a liberal who will not stand idly by while having my values and ethics questioned by a party that has its own issues to deal with on that front. Was it decent of GOP candidates to stand silently smiling onstage when at one of their debates an audience member yelled "YES" to the question should a person without insurance be allowed to die? Who is the "Death Panel" now? Was it decent of party leaders to again remain silent when a prominent conservative commentator referred (while on the air) to a young college woman as a "slut" simply for her advocacy of policies he disagreed with?
Was it decent of congressional candidate Todd Akin to hold forth about "legitimate rape" and proclaim the unscientific notion that a woman's body had the ability to ward off pregnancy if she was assaulted? Was it decent of candidate Richard Mourdock to state that it was "God's Will" if a woman's pregnancy resulted from a rape? Was it decent of Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan to adamantly stick by his bill (co-authored with Akin), allowing no exceptions" for abortions for rape victims, arguing that the "method of conception" was irrelevant? Was it decent of Republicans in several states to attempt the disenfranchisement of thousands of Americans (mainly in democratic leaning districts) through voter suppression tactics thinly disguised as "anti voter fraud" provisions?
Mitt Romney, the conservative candidate for the presidency, famously slandered 47% of the electorate as being dependent on government and incapable of "taking responsibility for their lives." I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that insulting nearly half of the electorate seems a poor strategy for winning their hearts and minds. Besides that, what he said was wrong on its face. As to the yarn about our "Decency Deficit," it is of a kind with Romney's fateful, wrongheaded statement. And is equally as false.
Good, decent Americans could (and did) disagree with the philosophy and economic theory of conservatism this time around. These voters, to a larger extent than conservatives are willing to admit, are church goers and others who attend synagogues, mosques, and temples. Most of them are ethical, community minded, family oriented citizens doing their moral and patriotic duty by their own best lights, which is really all that can be asked of any of us. Prominent Republicans Colin Powell and 2012 presidential candidate John Huntsman have come out in recent days and admitted that the GOP and conservatives have a lot of work to do when it comes to being less insulting to the electorate. Until that occurs, voting for the other guys seems the only decent thing to do.