The other day I read a commentary about this moment, which also brought me back to 1992. Moroccan international expert Ahmed Charai said that events of Jan. 6 had shaken his confidence in the strength of America’s democracy. But he then said he cried when, just hours after the assault on the U.S. Capitol, Congress was back and the sitting vice president read the votes confirming his own loss and his opponent’s victory. That, this writer said, is the America he still believes leads the world by example.
Where does 1992 fit in? I happened to be in Morocco on a reporting trip that year in November, and the U.S. Embassy invited me to an election night party.
First, Bill Clinton’s victory became clear. Later, President George H.W. Bush came on the TV screens with his family. Around me in the ballroom, people were chatting, backs to the screens, like nothing was going on. Then a man near me said something I’ll never forget (and which I wrote about): He turned to his chatty group and said, “Hey, you all need to watch this. The most powerful man on Earth is about to acknowledge his loss, and that he’ll respect the will of the people and leave power quietly. It’s a lesson much of the world needs to learn.”
America has stumbled, no doubt about it. But when Mike Pence read the victorious votes for the Biden-Harris team, it was still an example for parts of the world where such transitions, even frighteningly flawed ones, don’t occur. Remembering that nearly three-decade-old experience gave me some hope.