Scott Pelley answers an unexpected question: "Are we going to be OK?"

In the days before election day someone asked me a question I had never considered before: “Are we going to be OK?” I didn’t know who they wanted for president, but it didn’t matter. This was the “anxiety election” on both sides of the divide. 

Do these words sum up, for you, the faults in these campaigns: “passionate partisanship, absurd judgment, and ambitious self-serving behavior?” If so, consider, those are the words John Adams used in 1776 to advocate for a constitution with three branches of government: Separate, equal, and hopelessly encumbered by hobbles known as checks and balances. James Madison called the separation of powers “the essential precaution in favor of liberty.”

The American government is inefficient. These days we call it gridlock. But that is what the founders were striving for. A system that would slow down, even stop, when politics became too partisan, absurd and self-serving. The constitution is a circuit breaker that prevents real damage. 

If you are among those who believe this was the election no one saw coming, you’re mistaken. The founders could not have imagined the horizons of our modern world, but the range of human nature is ever the same. From the second floor windows of a building in Philadelphia, they could see a distance of 229 years. 

Are you going to get what you want from the next government? No telling. 

Are we going to be OK? No question.  

  • Scott Pelley

    Correspondent, "60 Minutes"