Since I’ve been studying up about the War of 1812 for my Founding America novels, I’ve gotten some fascinating insight into the history of political paybacks.
You see, back in 1814, there was a political party called the Federalists, which thought it was right and the opposition was wrong. Meanwhile, the opposition – the Democrat-Republicans – thought it was right and the Federalists were wrong.
Sound familiar yet?
One election year, the Federalists came into power with a Federalist-dominated Congress and a Federalist president.
Now, many of these men, President John Adams included, had done a lot of good for their country already. Back when they were the underdogs, they fought against political oppression and societal discrimination (even if they did take it too far sometimes).
Yet once they got into power themselves, they made a mess out of things by passing a series of bills called the Alien and Sedition Acts. Among other things, those laws criminalized making false statements against the federal government, with “false” being up for Federalist interpretation…
That made enough citizens mad that, the next time elections were up, they voted the party out of congressional and presidential power and the Democrat-Republicans into it.
Now, many of these newly elected officials, President Thomas Jefferson included, had done a lot of good for their country already. Back when they were the underdogs, they fought against political oppression and societal discrimination (even if they did take it too far sometimes).
Yet once they got into power themselves, they made a mess out of things by ignoring Federalist input. As a result, they dismantled the country’s national defenses and set up trade embargoes to avoid going to war with Europe… at the expense of the Federalists.
Hey, payback is a vicious dog, right?
Except that it’s a dog that bites both ways.
First the Federalists' vindictive behavior hurt their entire country. Then the Democrat-Republicans’ smug, 12-year victory lap led America into economic recession and a poorly-planned war that saw our capitol burned to the ground – where, incidentally, the enemy was often aided by ticked-off Federalists, which then backfired on them since the war ended in the Democrat-Republicans' favor.
What a mess!
It almost seems like a historical lesson in being gracious when you win and gracious when you lose, convictions and all… if for no other reason than to make sure any ungraciousness doesn’t fall back on you when the pendulum swings the other way.
Don’t get me wrong… I fervently believe we should sign away all of Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders, dismantle Obamacare and do away with just about everything – if not everything – that he’s done in the last eight years.
But we don’t have to be pretentious, deliberately vindictive jerks about it.