When I was a little boy in church, a stranger sat beside me on a pew and I promptly got up and moved to the other side of my mother. “Don’t do that!” she hissed. “Now she’s going to think you did it because of her.” That I had, in fact, moved because of her was less relevant than not hurting a stranger’s feelings. That I would spend a large portion of my adulthood doing things because I didn’t want to wound any unsuspecting stranger’s feelings is not a surprising takeaway from that moment.
I was reminded of that story this morning, when I woke up in a country without an elected president; with the current commander-in-chief capriciously demanding that the Supreme Court halt all vote counting; and with his opponent advising everyone to remain patient. I was also reminded of 2016, when the Electoral College electors had the option of casting a vote of conscience against Donald Trump to obey the will of the people. And I was reminded of 2000, when it was deemed better for the country to stop fighting the Florida debacle and retain grace and dignity. What good does dividing the country accomplish, the Democratic party asked with a sigh as they shuffled away?
When the Democratic party makes that same decision this year, we are not allowed to be dismayed or surprised. The party leaders have proven time and time again that they are craven, approval-seeking do-gooders who greet every new breach of etiquette with a gasp and a hand to the heart and then quiet acquiescence. Perhaps there’s a pithy aside to a reporter or maybe they send anodyne Mayor Peter to say accurate statements on Fox News. But more Democrats brought up fulfilling Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s deathbed request that she not be replaced until after the election than asked Amy Coney Barrett why she can be both a woman and a Constitutional originalist. And after all the huffing and puffing in public statements, was anyone surprised that the Democrats obeyed the rules and ACB was ultimately confirmed?
That same reluctance to “go low,” to grapple with an opposing party increasingly marked by its gleeful disdain for propriety and for common sense, is what dooms the 2020 presidential election. How many days before Joe Biden concedes, just to keep the peace? Two? Maybe three? The inmates have taken over the asylum, because the leaders holding the keys didn’t want to be rude and assume they were too crazy to be trusted. Now it is up to us to keep score for the next four years: Who is willing to go the distance for democracy, and who just wants everyone to get along?
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