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Why America Sort of Works



Say what you will about the many, many, many failings of the United States over its 200+ years of existence, it’s largely been relatively stable. And there’s a reason why. The United States sort of works because the losing party in its elections respects the legitimacy of the other political party to govern. That goes back to John Adams, who in 1801, committed one of the most important acts in American history. Despite his deep bitterness in losing to Thomas Jefferson, he left the White House and went home to Massachusetts. He did not question Jefferson’s legitimacy to govern. He did not call out the military. He did not refuse to leave. He established a peaceful transfer of power.

As Republicans engage in total war on the Democratic Party, this tradition is under serious threat. That’s why the Republican Party is actually making me question the future of the American republic. The only time in U.S. history we have seen a similar form of extremism that does not respect the legitimacy of the other party was in 1860, when the South nominated the radical pro-slavery John C. Breckinridge for the presidency and then committed treason in defense of slavery when Abraham Lincoln defeated him. It took 750,000 dead Americans to put the nation back together again. And while secession is not in the offering, I don’t know what is. If Republicans refuse to do such basic things as confirm any Supreme Court justice and seek to impeach Hillary Clinton the moment she takes office for made up “crimes,” how does this nation continue 10 to 20 years into the future? I wish I was engaging in hyperbole here, but I’m not. I am seriously worried about the future of this nation. Down the path of extremism and delegitimizing your opponents is the coup, the military dictatorship, the imprisonment of political opponents. The FBI’s dangerous interference with the election is a very scary precedent.

I feel like we are in a period of sheer survival, holding on until this aging generation of old, furious white people dies out enough that greater sanity takes over. But who knows if that will happen or how. Ultimately, it takes a functional, rational Republican Party to make the nation run. An extremist, fireeating Republican Party threatens the security of the nation.

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