Wednesday, November 3, 2004
A covenant goes two ways.
Shall I pledge allegiance to the prez? Jeff Jarvis urges his fellow citizens to repeat after him in patriotic magnanimity:
I promise to... Support the President, even if I didn't vote for him..... Criticize the President, even if I did vote for him..... Uphold standards of civilized discourse in blogs and in media while pushing both to be better.... Unite as a nation, putting country over party, even as we work together to make America better.
Hmm. I first read Jarvis's pledge when I thought Kerry might walk away with a solid majority, and didn't much feel like endorsing it then. I feel less inclined to endorse it now. Why?
"Support" is such a tricky word. I will certainly acknowledge Bush's victory and will recognize his legitimate occupancy of the White House. When I talk about President Bush, I won't type put "president" in quotes. He's president of my country. I accept that.
But a covenant goes two ways — and the pledge Jarvis offers us involves another party who also has a pledge to make. We citizens are bound by law and tradition to respect our elected leaders, and they are bound by law and tradition to respect us as citizens. That's a two-way street. So long as President Bush holds his constitutional office, he and I are bound to each other as president and citizen — and that covenant sets up conditions for our conduct toward each other. In a democratic republic, of course, his legitimacy as a leader depends on the trust he earns from the citizenry; he can fulfill the obligations of the covenant, or he can ignore them.
And this is where I have my doubts about Jarvis's pledge. I don't believe President Bush has honored his side of the deal over the last four years. I don't believe he has shown much interest in reaching out to his opponents or beyond his politically calculated base. I find it hard to imagine why he would start now.
And yet I fully intend to hold him to the pledge he made this afternoon:
America has spoken, and I'm humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens.
With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans. And I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president.
Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans. So today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us.
I will do what I can to support the president's ability to fulfill his pledge to "serve all Americans." I will criticize his failures to fulfill that pledge. That's the pledge I was planning to make to President Kerry. (And let me begin today! I do not support some of the goals Bush claims will require "the broad support of Americans," like his outrageous tax proposals. You want my support? Meet me halfway.) I will insist that our leaders remember that they serve us and our commonweal; we do not serve them or their agenda. And that, my friends, is the support I pledge to the president.
Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 3 November 2004 at 5:53 PM