How do we handle defeat?

November 7, 2008 on 1:01 am | In Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I’ve raised my children to be politically aware, and they’ve surpassed my expectations. Younger Daughter phoned me from college Wednesday, unhappy with the way the election went, and even more unhappy about the reactions some of her classmates were displaying. Daughter was cleaning her dorm’s common bathroom (a job she willingly took for the modest salary it provides) when another student approached her and exclaimed, “Today’s celebration day!” Daughter’s mind was focused on scrubbing, not partying, so she asked, “What celebration?” Her classmate responded, “Praise Jesus, Obama is President!”

The fact that this classmate is African American ought to be mentioned. Understanding that and the racial pride of the young woman, Daughter was nevertheless disturbed by the brief discussion they had. “It’s like his position on abortion isn’t wasn’t even an issue to her,” she recounted to me. “I don’t get why people who say they care about things like that went and ignored them with Obama. It’s like all that mattered was he was black.”

Victor Davis Hansen ponders exactly that fact:

…something is still puzzling about hours of television showing African-American ecstasy based on apparent racial pride rather than glee that someone of Obama’s views was elected—all often editorialized by teary-eyed objective journalists. A person from Mars who watched this post-election celebration, might study the popular reaction to the Obama victory and become puzzled: “Aren’t people now saying pretty much what Michelle Obama said twice, and to great criticism, during the campaign: that the emergence of Barack Obama was occasion for many to have pride in their country for the first time?”

For a great many people, that Obama is black is all that mattered. Daughter is trying to get her head around this, because her own political choices have been made the hard way, by looking at what the candidates positions and beliefs involved. This is the first time she ever voted (having turned 18 earlier this year) and she wanted to be thorough. Each candidate, each initiative was discussed with her father and me, and her entire absentee ballot was carefully filled in before she mailed it.

What a contrast to the many young people I saw during my day as a poll worker. Dozens of them, literally, who came in, got a ballot and asked “I only want to vote for president, I don’t have to fill out the rest of this, do I?” They wanted their ballot counted, but they weren’t interested in voting for any of the other offices nor the initiatives. They were just there to vote for Obama. There is something sad in such willful ignorance.

It was cool to vote for Obama.

I am proud of Younger Daughter, and her older siblings who also voted absentee, and their little brother who is too young to vote, but paid close attention to the election and continues to ask many questions. He is trying to understand why people voted for a man who wants to raise taxes. He knows the freefalling stock market has evaporated our future resources, and he knows that higher taxes won’t help. “If Obama raises taxes that will mean we’ll have even less money, won’t it? ,” he reasoned. “Then I won’t be able to go to [the private school we've applied to] next year, if the government takes more of our money.”

We’ve had many discussions recently about the economy and the election, and about handling losing with grace, and about how important it is to win gracefully as well. Life lessons. Younger Son wants to know why people blame President Bush for so much when “He’s only one man.” We’ve talked about how Bush led our country during a very scary time, and how he’s demonstrated the character of a godly man: He doesn’t hate on those who are determined to hate on him.

Younger Son wanted to know if Obama would be hated too, once he becomes president. I told him I hoped not, regardless of how good or bad a president he becomes. It’s ugly when a country turns on its chosen leader. That sort of hatred indicates a smallness of spirit and a meanness of soul, and an opening for evil. There’s far too much evil in the world already. Far better we bless than curse, even if the man in office is not the one we voted for.

Lorie Byrd at Whizbang considers how we ought to treat a new president vs. how badly it’s been done:

Even many of those who opposed Obama the most vehemently appear to be genuinely interested in seeing him succeed for the good of the country. I don’t see any who show a desire to treat President Obama as those on the left treated President Bush for the past eight years. That says a lot for conservatives. I fully expected more on the right to want to reciprocate in kind. It is possible to disagree, even vigorously, without wishing for assassination as some did of President Bush and VP Cheney, and without calling the President a chimp, or Hitler. It is possible to point out serious problems with the policies and judgment of a political opponent without descending into wild-eyed moonbat mode as some on the left did when they questioned the “maternity” of Sarah Palin’s child Trig and when some even said the child would have been better off aborted. I hope that by getting their preferred candidate elected that vicious, disgusting behavior will end.

My children have all independently expressed dismay to me over the way George W. Bush has been publicly despised. Neither they nor I can really understand the level of venom cast at a duly elected man who has served his country for eight long thankless years. We haven’t seen him break his marriage vows by dallying with an intern, nor lie under oath in court, nor fail to act as Commander in Chief. In contrast, we’ve seen President Bush offer steadfast leadership and unwavering compassion in our nation’s worst days.

Michael Gerson at the Washington Post lists Bush’s considerable though ignored accomplishments, and offers a heartfelt summary of the character of the man:

Many liberals refuse to concede Bush’s humanity, much less his achievements.

But that humanity is precisely what I will remember. I have seen President Bush show more loyalty than he has been given, more generosity than he has received. I have seen his buoyancy under the weight of malice and his forgiveness of faithless friends. Again and again, I have seen the natural tug of his pride swiftly overcome by a deeper decency — a decency that is privately engaging and publicly consequential.

Before the Group of Eight summit in 2005, the White House senior staff overwhelmingly opposed a new initiative to fight malaria in Africa for reasons of cost and ideology — a measure designed to save hundreds of thousands of lives, mainly of children under 5. In the crucial policy meeting, one person supported it: the president of the United States, shutting off debate with a moral certitude that others have criticized. I saw how this moral framework led him to an immediate identification with the dying African child, the Chinese dissident, the Sudanese former slave, the Burmese women’s advocate. It is one reason I will never be cynical about government — or about President Bush.

For some, this image of Bush is so detached from their own conception that it must be rejected. That is, perhaps, understandable. But it means little to me. Because I have seen the decency of George W. Bush.

My children and I honestly don’t understand the Obama love any more than we understand the Bush hate, though apparently they’re two sides of the very same coin. The extremes are unsettling; these are mere men, after all, human beings neither worthy of worship nor deserving of execration.

As Jeffrey Scott Shapiro of the Wall Street Journal notes,

It seems that no matter what Mr. Bush does, he is blamed for everything. He remains despised by the left while continuously disappointing the right.

Yet it should seem obvious that many of our country’s current problems either existed long before Mr. Bush ever came to office, or are beyond his control. Perhaps if Americans stopped being so divisive, and congressional leaders came together to work with the president on some of these problems, he would actually have had a fighting chance of solving them.

Like the president said in his 2004 victory speech, “We have one country, one Constitution and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.”

Therein lies the key to a healthier future for our country. And we on the right side of the political aisle can lead the way. John Hawkins believes we are already doing this,

With so many conservatives thinking McCain was going to win, you’d think the howling would have been unearthly after Obama’s victory. There should be conservatives threatening to move overseas, on medication, heading off to the psychologist, and non-stop attacks on the American people for being so stupid. Why not? After all, that’s what the left did after their loss in 2004.

And yet, the most common reaction across the right side of the blogosphere was either a congratulations to Obama, a recognition that having the first black president was a historic moment for America, or some combination thereof.

Allahpundit models a similar approach while offering thoughts on the way Dean Barnett would have handled Obama’s win,

My guess is he’d have handled the news tonight with the same magnanimity that distinguished all of his writing. So in that spirit, congratulations to Barry O on a race superbly run and to our country for not having let the wrong reasons deter it from making the wrong choice. I’ll never be a fan, but I swear I’ll never take a nutroots posture either in relishing his failures because it helps my party. Like it or not, he’s my president. As a great man once said, country first.

The Anchoress is optimistic that we might actually learn from all of this, and become a more cooperative nation,

I’m hopeful that the left – if it takes the time to actually condescend to notice how well it is being treated by the vanquished – might consider that self-indulgent defamation is the lesser way; that such a consideration may inspire introspection, and perhaps the smallest bit of regret for some of their appalling excesses toward the right and toward the American President who did not return hate in-kind.

I’m hopeful. I’m an optimist. I KNOW that the folks on the right – for all of their faults, and both sides certainly have faults – want America to be successful and strong and exceptional and free. I’m hopeful that hugely empowered left will discover that – beyond the feel-goodism of “free social programs” which are never free -they actually, really do want all of those things, too. That they’ll look back on the last 8 years and realize, finally, that their enemy was never George W. Bush. Bush, the guy who never dehumanized them, was only trying serve those corny ideals.

And then, miraculously, we may actually have unity.

May it be so. May we conservatives not waste time trying to pin blame and looking for a scapegoat, but instead, look toward the future. May Obama prove to be worthy of the great honor and responsibility now on his shoulders. May we encourage him in his efforts and not despise him for his failures, whatever they will be.

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  1. Thank you for another thoughtful and thought-inducing post, my friend. ((hug)) I appreciate how carefully you approach such matters and how you are teaching your children to do the same.


    Comment by The Scribbler — November 8, 2008 #

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