On the same day as the Inaugural in Washington, The Gambia was in the midst of a major constitutional crisis. Gambia is a slither of a country in west Africa. Until the weekend, it was ruled by the same dictator for over twenty years.
A recent election gave victory to Mr. Adama Barrow, but President Yahya Jammeh refused to step down.
Neighboring countries in the region invaded to remove the former president and replace him with the new one. Mr. Jammeh has now gone.
It’s different in America. No coups or counter-coups were needed to remove President Obama. Canadian and Mexican troops were not needed, either.
America has had smooth transfers of government for a very long time. That is to America’s credit.
But some commentators, including some religious ones, are doing a disservice to the United States when they describe America as “unique” in this regard. They also overlook an area of grave concern, deeply rooted in American history.
America’s peaceful changes of government are not unique. England has had peaceful transfers of power since 1689, to name just one country. Ed Morrow, CBS’s American wartime correspondent during World War II, marveled that, when faced with foreign invasion and possible extinction, the United Kingdom maintained a democratic system of government and people were free to criticize Winston Churchill. He did not think America would fare so well when faced with similar threats.
It can truthfully be said that America is unique in one respect – it is the only presidential system in the world that always has peaceful transfers of power. Others, like Gambia, have a bad history in this regard. It has taken over 50 years of independence for The Gambia to get a new elected Head of State – and the change was not peaceful. Zimbabwe has had the same president for 38 years following its independence – there is no sign of change in the country, though people talk increasingly of “nature taking its course” – the president is well over 90 years of age.
So, credit to America.
But not so fast.
In 1860, the election was peaceful, but a few weeks later, fourteen southern states seceded from the Union. Four years of civil war followed. 2% of the people were killed.
Go back even further, to 1775, and we see another civil war that claimed 6% of the people’s lives. (The population was less then so the total number was less, but the impact was, arguably, greater.) This war is known as the Revolutionary War or the American War of Independence. It lasted seven years.
Both wars saw incredible divisions in America. Both saw “brother against brother.” Both were truly civil wars of the worst kind. Is another civil war possible? It is not out of the question.
Again, we are seeing great division in American society. Roughly half the voters supported Donald Trump, while the other half supported Hillary Clinton. The latter seem no more inclined to accept the result than voters in 1860. That is not to say there will be another civil war, but there could be a great deal of civil unrest; and, eventually, another civil conflict, this time between conservatives and liberals, with race as a contributory factor.
Hundreds of thousands, some would say millions, of angry women were out on the streets of a number of cities, demonstrating over threats to women’s rights; an issue that did not even exist in 1860. The term “women’s rights” is a euphemism for abortion, the murder of babies. There was no support for abortion in 1860 – that’s a new phenomenon that is directly due to the nation’s gradual rejection of Christianity. Over 60 million abortions have been performed since legalization in 1973 – those children, who would now be adults, have been replaced by over 60 million immigrants, some from countries that are hostile to the United States. It really doesn’t make any sense.
Many of those immigrants are now with the demonstrators against the new Administration. This adds an ethnic dimension that did not exist in the two previous civil wars. Some of the most outspoken critics of the new administration in Washington are Muslims. Liberals come quickly to their defense. I even heard one prominent liberal on CNN yesterday extolling the virtue of an Islamic female leader who “is pro-gray, pro-LGBT.” Do they really believe that? The gay lifestyle is totally at variance with Islam. Gays have no civil rights in any Muslim country.
These divisions in America, primarily over abortion (sorry, women’s rights) and race, will continue to worsen during the Trump presidency. They have already resulted in some violence. In time, they could explode into greater conflict.
Americans can pride themselves on being part of a presidential republic that has seen many peaceful changes of government, but America is not unique where peaceful change is concerned. The challenge now is to make sure peaceful transfers of power continue. This is not likely to happen in a period of increasing diversity. Tribalism was a big factor in Gambia’s electoral disaster – tribalism is now a growing threat in America.
Diversity is just another word for “tribalism.”
We should not become complacent. Jesus Christ warned that: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Matthew 12:25).