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A time for solidarity, not bitterness

Observer Editorial | Friday, November 9, 2012

Tuesday night we elected our commander in chief for the next four years. We did not elect a president for New York or California or Washington or Massachusetts. More than 60 million people acted on their belief that President Barack Obama was the better choice to tackle the major challenges we face today, both at home and abroad. But more than 57 million people disagreed.
Anyone watching any sort of screen on Election Night was well aware of the dissension in our country. Twitter and Facebook exploded with angry comments denouncing the president, the voting population and even the electoral process as a whole. Even before the election, anxious observers expressed all sorts of ultimatums should their favored candidate lose – so when is the mass exodus from the country we’ve been hearing so much about?
Short of impeachment, there’s no going back from our decision as a people. Americans must continue to live and work and raise families in a country led by President Obama – whether they voted for him or not. A lost election is not the time to give up on America or democracy or our elected officials. It is a time to maintain dialogue, to express concerns and to hold our officials to the highest standards, all while remaining respectful and supportive of our leaders, so long as they act in good faith. We all lose as a people when we cannot demonstrate to the outside world a decent level of national solidarity.
Both former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and Obama ran for the highest office in our government with the belief their policies and backgrounds would best benefit the American people. While their ideologies differed – sometimes drastically – there is no reason to assume they weren’t acting in accordance with their consciences. Accordingly, there is no need to hold a grudge toward either candidate or either party, whether we like the outcome of the election or not.
We should be thankful for the political debate and disagreement we have in our nation. It’s evidence of the vast number of choices we are fortunate to have. We have close races because we have competent candidates with well-reasoned views that hit home with a substantial number of Americans. More importantly, it’s an indicator that Americans are willing and able to disagree and to express their beliefs in a very public way.
This is not the case everywhere. Even today, brave individuals outside the United States risk everything they have in pursuit of the right to vote at all or to have their votes count in a legitimate election. Demonstration of political opposition is still often met with violence in the Middle East and elsewhere, where illegitimate leaders rule by fear, without concern for “winning” over the people’s vote.
Beyond our borders, voting results or transitions between political regimes can spark a level of conflict requiring police or military intervention. In the United States of America, we expect the losing candidate to offer a concession speech the very night of the results, which Romney graciously did. While the results of such a hard-fought election may sting, it is important to appreciate the constructs of the great – though imperfect – system our predecessors worked tirelessly to establish.
No one should ask or expect Romney supporters to become Obama supporters or Republicans to become Democrats. No one is asking disappointed voters to give up their principles or stop fighting for what they believe in. On the contrary, now is the time to push harder than ever, to keep politicians accountable and truly representative of the people. What we should all expect from one another, however, is that we will first and foremost be Americans, unified under leaders we elected through a fair and legitimate system not afforded to many across the world.