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Democracy in action
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Democracy in action

This week’s one-two punch — the second inauguration of Barack Obama and the Israeli elections — proved a soothing balm in cynical times.

Call us suckers for the peaceful transition of power, but the juxtaposition of the two events helped restore some of the luster rubbed away after months, even years, of debased public debate.

In a 48-hour period that included no fewer than two presidential oaths, news coverage of the inauguration featured wide shots of the Capitol stage — decked in flags, crowded with dignitaries — and close-up images of the Obama family on their parade viewing stand: mom, dad, two growing girls. Such images simultaneously instilled a sense of old-fashioned national pride in our people and restored the president to human scale. Meanwhile, the media seemed to suspend, for one blessed day anyway, the caustic play-by-play dissection of rival political camps. Instead, they invoked a kind of yearning for a country that can put its arguments aside to enjoy the smooth workings of its levers of power.

In Israel, meanwhile, “smooth” is hardly the word many citizens think of when they consider the mad dash to the ballot box by more than 30 competing parties. And yet it is always useful to recall the neighborhood Israel finds itself in, and the example it provides to a region struggling to hatch new democracies. The campaigning is chaotic, to be sure, but peaceful. There’s vitriol, but rarely violence. And the vast majority accepts the outcome of the vote, far preferring ballots over bullets.

The two nations offer two models of successful democracy. Here’s hoping their respective leaders can see past their differences to forge an alliance worth celebrating.

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