Barry Saunders

Don’t protest if you didn’t vote – Saunders

People going around everyday.

Things just aren’t going their way.

But when you give them a chance to speak their mind

They sit back in a corner every single time ...

–Billy Paul, “We’ve All Got a Mission”

The opening line of Billy Paul’s song from 1976 plays in my head every time I have the misfortune of turning on the telly and stumbling across rock-chunkin’ protesters still fuming over last week’s election.

That, fortunately, hasn’t happened often, because I seldom have to turn it on since purchasing the entire boxed DVD set of “The Addams Family” television series. Marathon viewings have given me a new appreciation for the love between Morticia and Gomez and the under-appreciated comic genius that was Pugsley Addams. Most importantly, though, it has obviated the need to watch TV.

People have a right to protest a president-elect whom they feel won by demonizing large swaths of the country, but one can’t help but feel that their protests would have been more effective exactly one week ago inside – say – the voting booths.

Only 55 percent of registered voters cast ballots last week, and it’s been reported that 100 million registered voters for one reason or another couldn’t be bothered. The obvious question is “How many of those 100 million are out there clogging up the streets with their futile protests?”

Every one who didn’t vote but is now demonstrating should be forced to walk barefoot behind a police horse or arrested for loitering – or at least for protesting without a conscience.

The American electorate has spoken, and y’all need to just get over it. You had your chance to be heard but some of you likely, as Billy Paul sang, sat back in a corner.

Frank Baumgartner, the Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor of Political Science at UNC-Chapel Hill, told me Monday there have been other times when voters were demonstrably upset over an election. He cited the Bush v. Gore election, which was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In Bush v. Gore, the upset was focused on the courts, and in particular the U.S. Supreme Court. ... That did indeed lead to some residual problems with people questioning the legitimacy of the court,” he said. “But there is a big difference here. In Bush v. Gore, people were upset that the outcome of the election was improper, subjected to court interference. Here, people are not contesting the outcome, but the result.”

Professor Baumgartner, in response to a question about taking protest to the streets, said, “I cannot think of another case where voters have come out in large numbers to protest” an election. “Certainly the protests can’t be expected to continue day in and day out for four years.”

Four years? Hummph. I’m betting they won’t last four more days. As soon as the new season of “Real Housewives of Fuquay-Varina” comes on or McDonald’s re-introduces its latest incarnation of the McRib sandwich, people’s outrage will dissipate, their interest in the election will wane and they will return to what Thoreau called their lives of quiet desperation.

Years ago while delivering the commencement address at St. Augustine’s University, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told the graduates that if they didn’t have a voter ID card, their diplomas should be withheld. Likewise, anyone who didn’t vote last week should not be permitted to protest the election or anything else that happens over the next four years.

Didn’t we just finish eight years of people marching around proclaiming “Not my President”? Of course, many of those people were the same geniuses who, perhaps en route to their Mensa meetings, unironically held aloft signs reading “Keep Government out of our Medicare.”

We see where that got us, right?

Are some of the people who supported the president-elect a threat to liberty?

Darned right, but the country has far more to fear from the people who were too danged lazy or disconnected to vote, or who bought the bag of hooey that their vote didn’t matter.

Their votes would’ve mattered last week. Their protests today, however, don’t.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9