In December of 1991, Algeria’s National Liberation Front, cancelled elections after the first round to prevent victory by the Islamic Salvation Front. The government took control of the country, forcing out president Chadili Bendjedid, banning the opposing party and arresting thousands of its members. A coups d’état ensued, resulting in the loss of life for what some estimate to be as high as 200,000 people, including the assassination of more than seventy journalists, before the eventual surrender of the Islamic Salvation Front.
Since the beginning of the world’s collected history, coups d’état and coup attempts have been a part of the shift in power of governments, many coming with an appalling loss of life and ensuing instability in the country’s leadership and economy.
As the results of our country’s election begin rolling in, it is clear that almost half of the voters who participated in the 2012 general election have been disfranchised by the outcome. Early numbers indicate that while the electoral college votes have solidly pointed to Mr. Obama’s selection as our country’s president for the next four years, the popular vote is divided almost down the middle. An article by Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg published in the New York Times on November 7, 2012, describes the deep divide of the popular vote that put Obama in power for a second term. “Mr. Obama, 51, faces governing in a deeply divided country and a partisan-rich capital, where Republicans retained their majority in the House and Democrats kept their control of the Senate. His re-election offers him a second chance that will quickly be tested, given the rapidly escalating fiscal showdown.” It isn’t the first time our country has found itself deeply divided, either. As far back as 1824 when John Quincy Adams won the election, he only had 31% of the popular vote. Similarly, Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 with only 40% of the popular vote, and when John F. Kennedy became president in 1960, he did so with only 49.72% of the popular vote. And in our last election, when America made history by choosing their first black president to lead the country, over 47% of the country chose John McCain instead.
And here is the remarkable part: not one of those elections resulted in a coup by the opposing party or instability in our government. Transitions in power commence every four years without violence. We do not fear an impending coups d’état after each election, nor do we fear a suspension of elections. Citizens don’t stay awake at night wondering if military tanks will roll into the streets or that they will be dragged out of homes never to be seen again because of supporting the losing candidate.
It is one of the reasons why I am grateful to be a citizen of the United States. I have the right to voice my political beliefs if I so choose. I have the precious right to cast my vote in every election to make my voice heard (and truly do not understand anyone who has the right and with such cavalier disregard chooses not to participate). I can have confidence that whether I like the outcome of an election or not, my country will continue on a path of stability. The way I see it, that is reason for celebrating the outcome of this election, no matter which candidate won.