May none but honest and wise men [and women] ever rule under this roof

During his first night in a damp and unfinished White House, Pres. John Adams wrote to his wife:

“Before I end my letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

While many good and not so good men have inhabited that building, never in the history of this republic the man in the White House was more different to what Adams hoped and prayed for than during the last four years. We enter now the critical final 24 hours of the most poisonous tenure by any guest in that people’s house. Nepotism, dishonesty, fatuity, and racism all combined to erode and damage the institutions of the longest functioning democracy and bring it to the edge of collapse. Peace officers had to risk their lives to keep democracy from dying at the hands of an insurrection flying as a flag the name of a personality cult president. Officer Brian D. Sicknick did die protecting the United States’ republican form of government in the most literal way possible. His blood honors the marble floors of the Capitol.

As these dangerous final 24 hours pass, I am sure we will see one last series of rancorous acts, corrupt pardons, and executive poison pills being left as legacy at the top of the resolute desk. President-elect Biden will find those acts of political sabotage in lieu of a letter with words of encouragement and wisdom from his predecessor waiting for him at the Oval Office.

There is a less well-remembered feature of the John Adams presidency. His was the only time in which a president served with a vice president from a different party. The experiment mostly failed due to the existing polarization between parties. While cohabitation on a ticket is now impossible due to the way we conduct elections, we are in dire need of a grand coalition of democratic conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats that reject insurrection, hate speech, conspiracy thinking, and dogma as valid mechanisms to acquire or keep power.

E Pluribus Unum is still a good motto to build a democratic republic, and Jan 21st, 2021 seems like a good alliterative first day of actual work in the name of that life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness guiding principle that built the model all other democracies learned from.

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