Sunday, November 4, 2012

First Things First - Third Party Candidates Later

Every 4th of July, my family gathers around to watch the 1972 movie of the musical "1776." Over the years, its lines and lyrics, many of which are direct quotations from the founders' assorted writings, have become an entrenched aspect of my meditations on American politics. Over the last few weeks while discussing the upcoming election, one particular exchange between John Adams and Benjamin Franklin has been on my mind:

(Quoted lines start at 2:45, if you are low on time)

John Adams:
"Mark me, Franklin... if we give in on this issue, posterity will never forgive us."
Benjamin Franklin:
"That's probably true, but we won't hear a thing, we'll be long gone. Besides, what would posterity think we were? Demi-gods? We're men, no more no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed. First things first, John. Independence; America. If we don't secure that, what difference will the rest make?" (emphasis mine)
These lines mark the monumental compromise made by the first Congress regarding the legality of slavery, a decision that sowed the the seeds for the Civil War eighty years later, but allowed for the creation of the independent United States. Our history since is spattered such compromises, agreements struck between the abhorrent and the ideal. This Tuesday, I will be one of the millions of Americans making their way to the polls to decide, among other things, who will be the next president of the United States -- and I will have to accept a compromise in order to move forward.