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The Loyal Opposition Begins

John Mark Reynolds | Torrey Honors Institute | Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Loyal Opposition Begins

November 5, 2008

Wednesday the sun came up and I was happy. It is still morning in America. The candidate I voted for did not win, but I got to vote in a free and fair election. Power will be passed peacefully and the Constitution is intact.

We should never take that for granted.

The United States of America is still a marvelous place to live. People suffering in the Sudan would trade our worst day, economically speaking, for their best. Citizens in more prosperous China do not have the chance to throw the rascals out.

The sun is not setting on the American experiment. It is still rising, because there is still work to be done expanding the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all citizens.

It is glorious that an African-American has been elected President of the United States. Slavery was the original sin of the Republic and racism remains the bitter experience of too many Americans. The election of Barack Obama will not end racism in the United States, but it is a positive, symbolic step forward.

Each one of these steps brings us further to Dr. King’s dream of a society where men and women are judged on the content of their character and not on race.

President-elect Obama will soon be my head of state. I will pray for him daily and for his success. He is my president and it is my duty to do so.

In our system, President-elect Obama is also the head of government. In those terms, I am part of the loyal opposition. I will support President Obama when his policies are sound and give forceful reasons to oppose them if they lurch to the left. A loyal opposition is always hopeful that the Other Party will govern better than they have promised—the real world often tempers messianic dreams, but is ready to quip and quarrel if not.

The battle for the right to life for all God’s children will continue as will our defense of the family. We should ignore the temptation to read too much into elections. Pundits get paid to pontificate, yet they lack the anointing of pontiffs let alone of prophets.

Here is a rule of thumb: a party in charge during an economic meltdown and an unpopular war is finished. It is a sign of how center right the country really is, and the risk that the Democratic Party took in nominating Obama, that the race was as close as it was for so long. The banking crisis finished McCain.

Any analysis beyond that fact is speculation. The wave of anti-Republican sentiment during the “bail out” was so strong that any other tendencies are hard to separate or measure.

I will continue to support a small government just big enough to protect our fundamental rights, but today reminds me that most of life has nothing to do with government.

My family watched the returns with me. We mourned our defeat and then enjoyed time together. My classes in Torrey Honors at Biola will continue to explore the great texts of the West and my students will continue to argue well and press me to think harder about my ideas. My parish of Saint Michael will maintain the great tradition of the Western rite liturgy and we will not change our mind on the great moral issues with each passing poll.

Most of life is not government and most Americans put little trust in our “princes.”

“It is morning in America,” Reagan’s commercials famously ran… and for me it is still true. The land has not changed, our history is more glorious than not, and the election of the first African-American to the White House is good.

Besides, the imp and political junkie in me suggests, 2012 is not so far away…

John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Associate Professor of Philosophy, at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. John Mark Reynolds can be found blogging regularly at Scriptorium Daily.