As Allen Torrey, associate editor of The N&O's Editorial pages, heads into retirement today after almost two decades in the post, he leaves with these parting thoughts.
It’s been more than a month since the presidential election but in certain precincts the post-election gloom has yet to lift. It’s an especially gloomy gloom, this one, and it centers on a pessimistic prophecy. In short, some of our fellow citizens are certain the Republic will not – cannot possibly – survive four more years of the Obama presidency.
Around here, the depth of their despair was evident in readers’ post-election letters to the editor. Funereal missives in The N&O’s People’s Forum decried the big media cover-up (“Everything negative about President Obama never mentioned, and Mitt Romney scrutinized every step”); forecast economic disaster (“I fear that soon our country will make the Greek debacle look like a Disney movie” and – another writer here – “I predict that by 2016 we will envy our bankrupt European friends”); and yes, even lamented the Republic’s demise (“Now, with her passing, the world has grown darker. Her enemies will fill the void.”).
But that was shortly after Nov. 6. Surely time has healed wounds, softened attitudes.
Fat chance. A Raleigh man, mining a similar vein with a letter in The Wall Street Journal just this week, sized up his fellow citizens thusly, “ ... the state of the economy is of no concern to hordes of Americans, who can be driven to the polls with nothing more than the threat that, if the Democrats lose, their government goodies will be cut.”
When American voters expressing their political preferences are viewed as “hordes” of goody-seekers, some holiday cheer is clearly in order.
Start with this – friends, it was ever thus. The right wins a big election and the left starts thinking about real estate in Canada. The left wins one and well, we’re seeing it. Gloom and doom. Well, why not? The world has been going to heck for, oh, three or four thousand years, right?
Politics, however, goes round and round, and he who rejoices today weeps tomorrow. Thousands of years after ancient Greeks first practiced democracy, if there were a perfect political philosophy, wouldn’t it be evident by now? Instead we contend endlessly. And in approximately equal helpings, presidential administrations score successes and endure disappointments. In America, if your political beliefs are reasonably centrist, your time will come.
As for forecasting imminent economic disaster, allow us to offer up as a cautionary example a People’s Forum letter from Nov. 12, 1992 that we captioned “Mark my words”:
“OK, American voters. After having elected a Democratic president, Senate, and House, prepare to take your medicine.
“Keep this letter in a safe place. People will think I am a prophet when my words come true. ... In four years the following will happen: Interest rates will hit at least 20 percent. Unemployment will increase to 9.5 percent or higher. Inflation will double. Welfare recipients will increase by 15 percent or more. And taxes will increase in every facet of life regardless of income.
“But then again, people voted for change. Unfortunately, they did not specify what kind of change they wanted.”
Now there was a prophecy. As it turned out, the bad things didn’t happen and good things did (credit Republicans in Congress with an assist). And in Bill Clinton’s second term the economy got even better. Yet in January 2001 it was Republican George W. Bush who took the oath of office. The pendulum had swung.
No economic forecast for the next four years will be offered here – we’re capable of absorbing that lesson from the 1992 letter. But here’s a confident assertion: The Republic will survive. It’s built that way, and so are its citizens. Mark our words.