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Reverence for the consent of the governed

Thinking it Through

Ballots, not bullets, are the way of modern republican government. This is a matter of grave concern as I write this piece the day before the Presidential election and two days before publication. When the race for the White House is close and both sides are apprehensive about the victory of the other, it is important to rededicate ourselves to a fundamental principle of the Declaration of Independence, viz., “governments are instituted among men by the consent of the governed.”

There have been disquieting developments during the now-ended campaign that give one pause. Last week, the organization, in an advertisement produced by Michael Moore and financed by George Soros, several very old senior citizens threatened riots and physical harm to Mitt Romney “if the Republicans steal this election by suppressing the vote.”
It was shocking to see a 97-year-old women actually use, as a description of the country, the epithet that combines maternity with copulation; and another woman, doubtless near the same age, threatened to make a fierce attack on the Republican candidate’s reproductive organ. It is easy to dismiss these remarks, for who can take seriously the residents of a Florida rest home lacking the means of carrying out these threats?

But what can explain the decision of those who concocted this visual and auditory monstrosity and gave it wide circulation? It is surely not a reductio ad absurdum of the Obama campaign, which has treated the opposition as if it were motivated by the basest motives and the most callous disregard for the rights of others, whether it is poisoning their air and water, throwing them out on the street, cutting off their medical care or even putting them in chains.

Also, in the last week of the campaign, President Obama urged supporters at a campaign rally not to boo Mitt Romney but to vote against him, describing the latter as the “best revenge.” This might have been regarded as a throwaway remark but for the fact that Obama once said that his supporters should be sure to use more lethal weapons against their opposition, if necessary.

It is true that Republicans have said that we cannot take four more years of an Obama Administration, even to the point of saying that the movement toward Obama’s desired “transformation” of America to a European welfare state and (I would add) licentious society may be irreversible. I, for one, have no intention of acceding to such a betrayal of our constitutional government and will remain critical in defeat.

But is one thing to regard the opposition as mistaken in its thinking and even, in Obama’s case, lacking in the extraordinary qualities we need in our nation’s highest office. It is something else to reduce your opposition to cretins who have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. For regimes abroad that reduce those opposed to their rule to less-than-human status, this is the first step toward eliminating them.

But as long as devotion to our nation’s fundamental principles is not extinguished altogether, we can survive the victory of the opposing party. Still, it is not clear to me that a political party that demonized George Bush to such an extent that they likened him to Adolph Hitler will be any more willing to resist the same temptation should Mitt Romney be elected.
We have the unfortunate example from the election of 2000 when the Gore campaign decided to challenge the vote count in the closely divided state of Florida. We should not be surprised, then, that both campaigns now are “lawyered up” in the event of another such challenge, in one or more states.

The persistent Democrat lie that personal identification as a condition for voting constitutes a plot to suppress the vote of members of racial minorities is the predicate to such a challenge. That’s what makes that otherwise ludicrous ad so ominous, for those old ladies may be a stand in for the real thing.

Also last week, that despicable “comedian” Bill Maher made a “joke” that if you decide to vote for Mitt Romney, “black people will find you “and presumably set you straight. If that had been said by a Romney supporter, there would have been all sorts of feigned media outrage, but of course there is none over the Maher remark.

May God grant us a peaceful conclusion to this presidential election so that losers accept defeat with grace and the winners govern with magnaminity.

Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of “ Taking Journalism Seriously: ‘Objectivity’ as a Partisan Cause”  (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at

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