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Monday, November 29, 2021

Op-Ed: Election lessons

Hellenic News
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Prof. Aris Michopoulos, HCHC

The Good Lord blessed me with many friends: some Democrats and some Republicans. And since by nature I am not a fanatic about politics, I have the “privilege” to experience their passionate attachment to the “truths” and “dicta” of their party. In the end I experience the jubilation of the victors and the anger and humiliation of the defeated.

I must admit that the recent fight for the top spot of this great democracy of ours, was one of the longest, most arduous and most passionate I have experienced in many decades. The Government had introduced new rules and regulations in the way it governed. It was getting closer to an “imperial model” where the power emanates from the very top and any lack of loyalty or obedience to the “leader” had its consequences. Hence the slogan “You are fired” was not any longer a saying from a TV series, but a reality that was repeated several times at the cabinet level. Then radical changes in the area of Immigration, International Organizations, Climate, Trade and Technology created a new atmosphere, hitherto unknown at least to the younger generation.

All this new view of governance brought a strong reaction from the other side. It caused the coalescence of many groups and factions within the Democratic Party whose main thread of unity was their opposition to the current Government’s authoritarian view of things. In a way, it pushed a lot of them to the other extreme of proposing things that were anathema to the Republicans. This wide divergence of views and approaches became quite evident during the long and arduous fight of the plethora of Democratic Candidates to get the “anointment” of the leader that would capture the White House in November. And as the heat was going up and up, a new unexpected factor entered the proscenium and made the play more complicated. That mysterious element was called COVID-19. In the beginning, it seemed like another “innocent” visitor that would soon go away. Nobody knew “him” well, but he liked this place and decided to prolong his visit here and send to the hospitals and cemeteries tens of thousands. So this new situation became another serious bone of contention between the two parties. The accusations were flying high and the anger went a few notches up. At that point, a hot blooded policeman chose to literally sit on the neck of a hapless guy, George Floyd, and that became the hand-grenade that almost started a new Civil War. Tensions flew to the sky, tolerance went out of the window and the lines were drawn sharper. Physical contact became a thing of the past and the Democrats bowed to the wisdom of the age of Joe Bidden to lead them to the final victory. And as the Greek saying goes “strength is in unity,” lo and behold, a unified and united Democratic Party reached the impossible dream!

The acrimony, however, was such that for the first time the elections continued beyond the elections! The Government does not recognize the results, the Opposition does not recognize many of the actions of the government and for the first time some people are wondering if we will have a civilized and normal transfer of power in the only superpower of this planet. Hopefully, things will not go so much astray that we will witness new painful and sad experiences.

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So for me the moral of the story was the ancient Greek maxim: “Μηδέν Άγαν,” that is, “Nothing in Excess!” It seems that the government felt that it had every right to do as it pleased and the others to obey. Its behavior reminded many of the Marine hymn “Might makes Right!” Replacing long-standing alliances and friendships with “pay or go away,” ignoring pleas for understanding and praising dictators did not win any supporters for the government. Last but not least, excesses of police force and minimizing the effects of the virus put dynamite at the foundations of the party and blew it up. The President had a golden opportunity to deal effectively with the virus by giving full authority to those who know about viruses and diseases by training. Unfortunately, he didn’t take any courses in the classics to encounter Socrates’ famous “I know one thing that I know nothing” or his other maxim “Know Thyself.” Instead of turning to the ancient Greek wisdom or the humility of the Biblical pronouncements, he espoused the arrogance of a tragic hero who was destined in the end to fall from power and grace.

Now the opposition has the opportunity to prove that it can do a better job. There is a lot of pain around, Covid-19 and other pain, covering this great land of ours. Now the new government will have the opportunity to turn theory into praxis. It will have the opportunity to avoid the mistakes and excesses of their predecessors and bring a new ethos in governance. As it accused the previous government of giving tax breaks to billionaires and big corporations, it should be equally careful not to be accused of screwing up the wealthy and the wealth creating corporations, without analyzing the long term effects of its actions. At the same time, the new government should not declare total war against traditional sources of energy as they are still needed and provide employment to many people. It should be happy to give tax breaks to renewables and similar sources of energy and rejoin the climate accord. And finally, it should deal, as promised, with the needs of the poor and other needy people without undermining the country’s fiscal stability.

The new government, if it wishes to bring peace and prosperity to this tortured land it should avoid the excesses that its opponents accuse it of. It should work hard and judiciously so that we all have peaceful and happy elections four years from today. If it can achieve the above, it will go down to history as a caring, humane, effective, and productive government treating all its citizens with fairness, justice, and peace.

And that will be the best gift to the American people at large and also to me and my fellow Greek American friends, Democrats, and Republicans, alike!

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