In watching C-SPAN’s coverage of the election of John Boehner as Speaker of the House, it’s worth recalling what is often overlooked: the peaceful transfer of political power from one party to another is an amazing achievement. By now it is commonplace, of course; the ballot is stronger than the bullet, Lincoln said; and for Americans, this choice has long since been made. But for much of human history, including in many countries in the world today, the loss of political power is accompanied by violence and bloodshed. To watch the proceedings today — the votes, ceremony, and formality; the milling around, side conversations, and even the looks of boredom — is to be reminded that this nation and its form of government is, as Gladstone said of the U.S. Constitution, “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”
Sometimes the normalcy and routine nature of events hide just how extraordinary they are.