Healthy political competition

In watching the concession and acceptance speeches last night, I was struck by the apparently sincere willingness of both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama to “reach across the aisle” and work together after their bitter campaign fight.  To me, this feels much like a hard-fought sports competition, where in the heat of battle each side seems to want nothing less than the annihilation of the other.  Yet there are congratulations all around immediately after it is over.  I am also reminded of competitive (often courtship related) behaviors in other animals, which usually end well before death or serious injury.

The whole idea seems hopeful.  It is a “regression in the service of the ego” (to use Freud’s phrase) that we can become so primitive and impulse-based, but only temporarily, and for useful social and political purposes.  Could a nasty, divisive political season be healthier for us as a society than a quiet, civilized one?  I’m not ready to claim that, but neither am I ready to condemn it — as long as we’re good sports about it afterward.

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