The inauguration of President Barack Obama that took place Sunday — the ceremonial event was Monday — was not greeted with many cheers in Alabama.
Only 38 percent of the state’s voters chose Obama, with 61 percent going for Republican challenger Mitt Romney. In Morgan and Limestone counties, Obama snagged only 27 percent of the vote.
Some Alabamians are taking it hard. Within days of the election, they began calling for secession. They are predicting a socialist nation. Obama will take our guns, impose gay marriage, bankrupt the nation and make abortions routine.
Obama, some say, is a tyrant.
We hope the inauguration prompts some introspection.
Being in the minority is no fun, but in a democracy there always is a minority. Most Americans concluded Obama was the best candidate. Alabamians were part of the majority in the presidential elections when former President George W. Bush served two terms; now they are not. That’s how democracies work. In order for a democratic republic to function, the minority has to be able to accept it cannot call all the shots.
Also worth remembering is that Obama’s power is limited. While most Alabamians voted in the national minority on the presidential election, they voted with the majority in selecting House members. The GOP-controlled House is extremely conservative and its members oppose Obama on almost every issue. No law or budget can pass without House approval.
The importance of this fact is apparent in the debate of the day, gun control. To the horror of many Alabamians, Obama announced 23 executive actions designed to reduce mass shootings. Anyone who bothered to read them, though, realized they were anemic. Obama believes there should be more controls on guns, but he has almost no ability to implement them. Significant changes require legislation, and that requires an affirmative House vote.
Even if liberal thought is contagious and a majority of House members catch it, another branch of government has a check. Any limitation on gun access must survive a Second Amendment analysis by the U.S. Supreme Court, a governmental branch that tends to reflect Alabama views.
If none of that provides comfort, keep in mind Obama is a long way from the extreme left of his party. As a columnist in The American Conservative magazine put it last week, “Obama, in short, is not a socialist or even a social-democrat, just a good old centrist Republican.” Many liberals agree.
Obama’s most controversial ideas — from health reform to environmental regulation to foreign policy to gun control — represented mainstream Republican thought a dozen years ago.
If the celebration of America’s constitutional democracy cannot survive among those who occasionally find themselves in the minority, it is disturbingly shallow. Most Alabamians are not rejoicing over the inauguration this week, but we hope they can find time to acknowledge the wisdom of the constitution that made it possible.