Barack Obama is soon to be our new president, and he deserves our best wishes, not the kind of vileness that President Bush has encountered from the outset of his ascension to power, nor the turmoil one wacky if well-known leftist had predicted would greet John McCain if he won the election.
Liberals are good at demanding what they themselves refuse to give, and what they didn't give Mr. Bush was even a moment of fair reflection after the Florida Supreme Court tried to subvert the 2000 election on Al Gore's behalf. The Big Lie was that Mr. Bush had stolen the election, and it persists to this day as demonizing opponents misrepresent virtually every Bush action and grotesquely exaggerate every mistake.
The truth was that the Florida court had unconstitutionally called for a selective ballot recount and that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 against this charade, following up with a 5-4 vote to let the previously announced results in Florida stand. A later recount showed that if the Gore forces had had their way, Mr. Bush still would have won, a fact that has done nothing to alter partisan pronouncements to the contrary.
Some liberals were at it again after the 2004 election, asserting in the absence of any evidence whatsoever that the Republicans had swiped that one, too. About the only time Mr. Bush was given anything resembling a honeymoon was for a period after Sept. 11, 2001. The rest of his journey has been constant encounter with frequently paranoid vilification, although something short of what Erica Jong foresaw in the event of a McCain victory.
The feminist author warned that “the Republican mafia” in Mr. Bush's “police state” was maybe going to steal yet another election, that there would be a second Civil War, that blood would “run in the streets” and that, in the meantime, she was having back spasms in contemplation of it all, and that her friend Jane Fonda couldn't sleep. Poor Jane.
Ms. Jong obviously isn't representative of the millions of perfectly sane, thoroughly decent and intelligent Americans who voted for Mr. Obama, but she is not that many degrees removed from scads of let's-pretend intellectuals who have spent eight years frothing at the mouth about Mr. Bush. For a contrast, turn to Mr. McCain himself and to his concession speech.
“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him,” Mr. McCain said in reference to Mr. Obama, “but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences. …”
He referred to Mr. Obama as an able, persevering, inspiring figure whose “historic” election showed we were “a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry” of earlier times, and pledged “to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.”
You know he meant every word.
In his own speech the same night, Mr. Obama asked the nation to “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our politics for so long,” and let's hope we can, that we can rely on the kind of civility and respect that Mr. McCain talked about as we locate differences that will no doubt be very real and meaningful, but that need not give us spasms of either the back or reckless talk.
The Bush years demonstrate just how counterproductive such reactions are – again and again, his policy proposals were reflexively, deceptively treated as the work of the devil even when they offered either pragmatic, prudent, reasonable solutions to problems or at least the basis for rational discussion leading to better alternatives.
Can we do better? As Mr. Obama would say, yes we can.