As a Republican for almost all of my adult life, I am dismayed at the actions of many fellow Republicans. Joe Biden has won the presidential race fairly and squarely. He deserves the support and good will of all Americans. There was no widespread voter fraud. There was no stealing of an election.
In the 1960s, William F. Buckley — doyen of American conservatism — led efforts to purge extreme elements from the Republican Party, including the John Birch Society. There is no place in a responsible political party for conspiracy theories. That too few Republican leaders today are willing to speak out against what can only be termed irrationality is unacceptable. It is not enough to do nothing, much less provide overt or covert sustenance, when outrageous statements are made. Leaders must denounce demagoguery.
The essence of the United States is democracy. George Washington affirmed the democratic intent of the United States in his first inaugural address, saying of the “people of the United States” that theirs is a “Government instituted by themselves.” Perhaps most significantly, Abraham Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address that the government of the United States is “of the people, by the people, for the people,” and that the issue in the Civil War was whether this government “shall not perish from the Earth.” Those who unfoundedly and irresponsibly dispute the outcome of the presidential election do not merely attack the results of a particular race, they assail the United States itself.
There were, moreover, for Republicans, many positive trends in the recent election that should be emphasized and celebrated. A greater percentage of Americans of color voted for the national ticket than in any election since 1960, especially African Americans and Latinos. More Republican women have been elected to Congress than ever before. In California, propositions 15 (raising commercial real estate taxes without any controls on spending), 16 (ending prohibition against discrimination on the bases of race, ethnicity, and sex), and 21 (making rent control easier to implement) were all defeated. Proposition 22 (allowing app-based drivers to be contractors rather than employees) passed. The prevailing position on all of these propositions was endorsed by the California Republican Party.
My longtime mentor in local politics, Bob Kallman, used to say that “reason and balance” should guide public decision-making — reason, in acknowledging facts; and balance, in recognizing that all responsible voices should be heard and represented. My father, William Ebenstein, a political scientist, wrote: “American democracy is American history.”
Ronald Reagan identified the “eleventh” Republican commandment as: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” Perhaps it is time to add a twelfth commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow American.” As long as politics exists, there will be differences — often sharp — in what people believe and advocate. This is inevitable and desirable in a diverse and pluralistic society.
But there is no reason for the enmity that has too often characterized American politics recently across the political spectrum. Republicans, as all Americans, should be able to say to President-Elect Biden: “Congratulations on your victory, and good luck in your coming term in office.”