Just a quick little entry today (I’m in the midst of a post-election creative hangover; more regular posting should pick back up next week).
One thing that Americans take for granted is the peaceful transfer of power between political leadership. What we don’t realize is that rarely happens in the world without bloodshed or, at least, a lot of drama. Before the U.S. Constitution took effect in 1789, power transfers usually happened in three ways: a violent coup d’état or civil war from internal opposition, an invasion by foreign enemies, or the death of the current leader.
When the Revolutionary War ended, General George Washington could have claimed a ‘crown’ as King of the United States. He did not do so, retiring instead to his home. King George III of England, upon hearing this, stated that, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” The very idea of a man passing up the opportunity to be king was foreign to most of the world, and indeed to many Americans.
George Washington, after the establishment of our current Constitution in 1789, was elected our first president with a unanamous electoral vote and then reelected unanimously in 1792. Again, to the amazement of many, at the conclusion of his second term he willingly stepped down.
No U.S. president has ever refused to step down at the conclusion of his term(s). One by one, more countries around the world are following in our footsteps and establishing civil governments capable of peacefully transferring power between parties and factions. In a historic context however, it is still noteworthy every time it happens. Don’t take it for granted.