Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Washington's Importance

This article from HNN goes into the importance of Washington's refusal to take power as a comparison of what happened in Egypt and other places. You might remember I actually posted another Washington article recently and his reluctance to be President.

The current article details Washington's power and his ability to leave it behind:
Washington’s achievements certainly are extraordinary. He led a rag-tag army to victory over the world’s mightiest power, he skillfully guided the Constitutional Convention to produce an enduring document, and he served two exceptional terms as president during a tumultuous time. Perhaps his greatest feat, however, does not involve courageous military exploits or praiseworthy presidential leadership. It is what separates him from Mubarak, Mugabe, Marcos, and legions of other leaders-turned-despots: he stepped down.

No Gallup polls were conducted to determine Washington’s “popularity rating” when he left office in 1797, but evidence suggests that he could have won an overwhelming majority had he chosen to run for a third term. Indeed, it is unlikely that he even would have faced an opponent—he ran unopposed in both 1789 and 1792 and was the unanimous choice among presidential electors.

Given his popularity, Washington easily could have succumbed to the temptations of power. He could have called upon his loyal followers within the military to create a standing presidential army to enforce his will. He could have manipulated public opinion to demonize and punish potential political opposition. He could have summoned the financial and political clout of the aristocratic Society of the Cincinnati to resist democratic impulses from below. He could have inflated threats from abroad or the frontier to create an excuse to consolidate power and suppress individual liberty.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he chose to leave office and return to his farm in Mount Vernon. He did not anoint a successor or work to influence the election of 1796. He did not involve himself in the growing factional disputes between his former cabinet members, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. He did not undermine his successor or opine about the decline of the nation due to his absence from office.

As this article says, "Thanks, George!"

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