The Limits of Political Tolerance

by Mike Pyatt

Mike Pyatt

After a rancorous and divisive 2016, Presidential campaign, there’s a paucity of regard for differing opinions in American culture. The Left and Right slugfest continues. Denigration of our President-elect Donald Trump soars to “new heights of lows,” with absurd charges that Trump is not legitimately elected. One of the Tinsel Town elites called for marshal law to halt the inauguration on January 20th. Is that emblematic of “tolerance” from the Left. What can conservatives tolerate politically? Are we so partisan that we are intolerable?

History recorded the acrimonious, mercurial, and adversarial relationship betwixt two of our Founding Fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, that was severed for years. In their waning years, their friendship was rekindled. Both died on the same day. The divide of the Federalist, who were pro England, the Republicans, who were pro France, vexed them. Both were austere, often pompous, and at times contemptuous of the other, it appears neither demonstrated, for periods of time, tolerance for the other. Adams detested the “fancies” of the philosophies of Rousseau’s disciples, and Jefferson’s proclivity, a priori concepts, and sympathy with French equalitarian theories. Adams, like Edmund Burke, rejected Rousseau’s Enlightenment view of human perfectibility, ignoring the Christian doctrine of man’s depravity.

In the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, received exactly the same number of electoral votes-73. According to the Constitution, the House would elect the President. The Federalists could shift their votes to either Jefferson or Burr. During this crisis, Alexander Hamilton, a bitter enemy of Burr in New York politics, wrote a private letter on January 16, 1801, in which he scorched the character of his old opponent, Thomas Jefferson, “His policies are tinged with fanaticism. He is too enthusiastic about democracy. He has been a mischievous enemy to the principle measures of Washington’s administration. He is crafty…and he is unscrupulous about the means he uses to achieve success. In short, he is a contemptible hypocrite.” During the bitter rivalry which threatened national unity, the House voted thirty-six times before Jefferson garnered the necessary majority.

In Jefferson’s inaugural address he commented on the heated debates, reminiscent of 2016. Sagely, he observed, “Now, of course, all will abide by the will of the law and unite common efforts for the common good.” He continued, “Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind.” Some called for dissolving the Union. Jefferson appealed to tolerance, “We are all republicans, we are all federalists.” A conciliatory remark for unity. Nor did he oust Federalist from appointive offices in large numbers. Was this a dolorous decision? Could we benefit today with such tolerance?

By tolerance, one should never consider those differing views that violate or obnubilate the Constitution. If it cannot be relied upon as a barrier against appetite and force, or the most capacious human intellects cannot apprehend the way to manage society, where may security against power or decay be found? One cannot prevent another’s antipathy toward our moral underpinnings, or contempt for the verities of our Republic. As Liberty minded conservatives, one must be willing to, when possible, engage our political foes, with the logic and force of our position. It’s imperative that we not co-mingle legitimate capitalism principles with cupidity. Though imperfect, that’s no reason to loose Socialism on our political landscape. Only principled leadership can redeem the United States from the mastery of the ignoble, progressive elite. Perhaps we’ve been granted a brief reprieve from the liberal progressive policies of the past eight years. Will we squander it?

The towering moral problem of our time is the loss of absolutes. Secular progressives look for an “easy religion,” or belief which frequently leads to a vulgarization of biblical Christianity. They seek it in a cult, self-delusion, the psychiatrist’s couch, or crass materialism that ultimately leaves them spiritually vacuous. They seek regeneration without Christian conversion. Politics has its place for tolerating apposing thoughts. But it, by nature, isn’t regenerative. T.S. Eliot reminds us in this battle for hearts and minds, “The struggle to uphold the permanent things has no surcease.” Conservative politics may be more about courage. If Aristotle’s right-then courage is a settled disposition to stand one’s ground in a political exchange of ideas. Imagine coffee and table talk with Rosie O’Donnell. The topic: the objective advantages of conservatism or liberal progressivism. One would need courage, tolerance, perseverance, a strong polemic to bolster one’s case-and a resolute referee.

Decisive Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg introduced the final phase of the North and South War.1864, was an election year, and Lincoln was in trouble politically. In the summer of 1863, in New York City, there were four days of rioting, pillaging, and Negro lynching. Union troops from the battlefields at Gettysburg were marshaled to restore order. Lincoln still had trouble with the Radicals wing in his own party, many whom preferred another candidate. Nevertheless, Republicans nominated Lincoln for re-election. Democrat General George B. McClellan opposed him, running on a Peace platform. Lincoln prevailed easily, winning the electoral vote 212 to 21. The popular vote revealed the deep division. Lincoln received 2.2 million votes to McClellan’s 1.8 million.

The farewell of the 44th President will assuage much of the divisive rhetoric that’s plagued our nation for eight years, particularly race relations. He ignored the “war zone” style murders in Chicago, shifting the blame to law enforcement, and used the DOJ to rub salt in those wounds. Talladega College marching band’s invitation to perform at the 45th President’s inauguration drew a firestorm of partisan criticism. The 1865 “Black Codes” are no longer in force. Congress passed five Civil Rights acts between 1957 and 1968. The first black President served two terms in office. Martin Luther King’s celebrated annually. Someone please tell the Congressional Black Caucus, and Georgia Congressman John Lewis. Our most dire existential threats are internal. “O foolish creatures that destroy, Themselves for transitory joy.” Aesop. What do you think?

Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s roderickstj@yahoo.com

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