I voted early today, an hour or so after the polls opened. The initial plan, months ago, was to vote early by mail but after some consideration and, more to the point, reports of chicanery on the part of Trump’s man in the Postal Service and threats by the Republican Party to challenge the integrity of the election I decided to vote the old fashioned way.
In our little corner of Hercules the polling site for our small precinct is the local recreation center. Just as in any previous election there were no lines. I guess that was just about the only holdover from past elections. COVID dictated separate entry and exit doors, plastic shields, gloves, sanitizers, single use pens and socially distanced booths.
As in any presidential election there’s tension about it. And rightly so when you consider that we’re hiring the driver of the national bus for the next four years. Think back to every presidential election and the quadrennial warning about any given election being the most important one in decades.
“They’ll take away your guns,” cry the right.
“They’ll take away civil rights,” warn the left.
The guy on the right is labelled a nationalist, the one on the left a socialist even if in reality they’re each just barely to the left or right of dead center.
We hear every four years that the presidential election is the election of the century and the fate of the nation hangs in the balance and anybody who has the temerity of voting his or her conscience is scolded for “wasting a vote,” or “helping the other guy win.” By all means never let your conscience be your guide.
This year is different. This year there’s more than just tension. Tension has been elevated to anxiety and anxiety to fear. I could never have imagined that businesses would board up their windows in anticipation of violence and a non-scalable fence erected around the White House, the people’s house. Those are things that happen in countries ruled by repressive regimes. In America the president isn’t supposed to fear the people. It’s not supposed to come to the point in America where the president has incurred such public wrath that the White House should be turned into a castle.
The Constitution of the United States opens with what are probably that document’s most important words, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,”
“I serve at the pleasure of the president,” goes the saying among executive appointees. It essentially means that they are at will employees who can be shown the door for any reason within the limits of the law.
America’s government serves at the pleasure of the people. The president is an at will employee and every four years, the people have the right to send the sitting president packing. During the intervening years the pressure of the people can, in theory anyway, influence the Congress to impeach and convict the president.
Members of the House of Representatives, the most direct representation between the people and the government are either hired or fired every two years. Senators serve a six year term. They all serve at the pleasure of the people.
In 1787-88 America held a historic vote for the ratification of the Constitution. While women and slaves were not given the right to vote, the states dropped any property qualifications meaning that propertyless freemen were allowed to vote on ratification – something unheard of. Unfair by current standards but strikingly inclusive by the standards of the 18th century.
“We the people” has gone through some substantial change since 1787 when “the people” didn’t include a large portion of the population. But in 1787 the founders included promise in the preamble in the all important words, “more perfect union.” They weren’t so confident and hidebound to say THE perfect union. They were aware that nothing remains the same and that positive change is a necessary thing and so they deemed their new nation “more perfect.” They exulted in a system that was more perfect than what preceded it but were cognizant that it was not flawless and that changing times would call for necessary changes. They expanded on that idea in Article V which calls for necessary amendments to the Constitution.
It was through amendments and acts of Congress that voting rights were extended.
The 15th Amendment granted the right to vote to non-white men and freed male slaves.
The Dawes Act gave Native American men the right to vote (not all Native Amercans were allowed to vote until 1948 when two holdout states, Arizona and New Mexico extended full voting rights).
In 1920 the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.
The Magnuson Act of 1943 gave Chinese immigrants the right to vote.
So over the decades America continued towards being a “more perfect union,” but still not THE perfect union.
The Early Hours
It’s 12:50 local time and there’s a little over hours to go until the first closing of the polls. I’ve had the news on almost all morning as if something significant is going to happen in these early hours.
At this point we’re seeing people voting in Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution and lines of voters in snowy Maine and under the Florida sun.
There’s a glitch in North Carolina that’s been corrected but final tabulation is going to be delayed.
Robo calls are going out in various states warning voters to “stay home and stay safe.” Voter intimidation.
It dawns on me that one thing I didn’t see at my polling place but half expected was an overweight buffoon straining the buttons on his surplus store camos, hanging around the polling place acting as one of Trump’s “poll watchers.”
The right to vote hasn’t come easy. It took a revolution to just get the process rolling and since then people of all colors and beliefs have struggled for the right of suffrage. A Civil War gave Blacks citizenship and later the right to vote. During the century and a half since the 15th amendment, laws have been passed, court cases lost and won, protests held and lives lost just so that people of color could exercise the most sacred of American rights.
And yet a century and a half later African Americans still find themselves contending with impediments thrown up largely by the Republican Party.
Though they themselves limited the right to vote to a relatively precious few, I have to believe that the founders would be appalled to know that the leadership of a major political party takes the pains that it does to suppress and discourage the suffrage rights of American citizens. It’s clear that the American citizens who are targeted represent certain groups who that party regards as a threat to its power.
Seventy percent of Georgia voters purged in 2018 were Black.
Across the country, one in 13 Black Americans cannot vote due to disenfranchisement laws.
One-third of voters who have a disability report difficulty voting.
Only 40 percent of polling places fully accommodate people with disabilities.
Across the country, counties with larger minority populations have fewer polling sites and poll workers per voter.
It’s 3:00 o’clock local time and the first polls have just closed, none of them with the exception of Virginia traditionally friendly towards Democrats. A month ago, with Trump seemingly drowning under a flood of reports of mismanagement and lies about the coronavirus, his affinity towards white supremacists and his growing unpopularity among suburban women, I was becoming certain that Trump was doomed. Now I’m the one drowning; in a despair that Trump will pull this one out. I’ve been wondering over the past few days whether or not I’m going to be able to continue to live in America.
I’ve been looking at options with Italy and Mexico at the top of my list. My wife will certainly not leave so I’m looking at a four year option and if she wants she can visit me. I can’t imagine living through four more years of the destruction of America.
3:15 P.M. and Greene County in Indiana has Trump with 68 percent of the vote. In Kentucky Trump has 85 percent of a small sampling.
4:00 P.M. CNN calls Indiana for Trump. Okay that’s Pence the lap dog’s state. Still it’s depressing.
I walk past Cora. “Trump’s going to win,” I tell Cora.
A few minutes later Biden is ahead in Georgia and Florida. Please Florida, don’t fuck the country again.
4:45 P.M. Kentucky and South Carolina are falling to Trump but Biden has been projected to win Vermont. It’s 11 – 3 Trump in electoral votes.
5:00 P.M. Biden gets DC, Massachusetts, Delaware and Maryland. Trump gets Oklahoma and Kentucky. Biden is ahead in Ohio and Texas of all places but losing in Virginia. It’s going to be one of those days.
Cora just called in the heavy artillery, “Oh Holy Spirit, please.”
5:25 P.M. Biden is winning Pennsylvania big. Trump gets Tennessee. Electoral count is 37 – 30 in favor of Trump.6:00 P.M. CNN calls New York for Biden. Biden is ahead 59-42. He’s getting mauled in Georgia and Michigan. There’s a long way to go in Michigan, not so much in Georgia.
6:05 P.M. Biden is the projected winner in New Jersey and Trump in Arkansas. So far the projections are as expected weeks ago.
6:15 P.M. Biden is projected to win Connecticut and Trump, South Dakota, home of Krist, (I don’t got to show you no sticking masks) Noem.
6:30 P.M. Biden gets Colorado and Trump North Dakota. The most disappointing news of the night comes in. Mitch McConnell goes back to Washington.
7:05 P.M. The maps are all blood red. Trump is winning everywhere and I’m despondent.
7:30 P.M. New Mexico goes to Biden. No offense to that state but it’s small potatoes. There is good news. Colorado flipped a Senate seat to a Democrat and Biden is well in front in Arizona. That might mean another Senate seat to the Democrats.
8:00 P.M. Biden gets the west coast and is ahead in electoral votes 192 – 108. From here on it’s going to be a slog because the big, “in the bag” states are all used up. The so-called battleground states are ridiculously close though.
We’re looking at Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia and Trump leads in all of them. Virginia? Even Hillary Clinton won Virginia. What the hell.
“How can it be this close,” I tell Cora. “The man is a complete disgrace.”
“Oh my God, what’s happened to America?”
What Happened to America
Last Sunday some assaults by so called Trump trains gave us an inkling of what’s happened. A Biden campaign bus in Texas was surrounded by a caravan of trucks flying Trump flags and banners. In New York, New Jersey and Colorado Trump trains closed bridges and stopped traffic.
Even the San Francisco Bay Area wasn’t immune. On Sunday a Trump train invaded Marin County’s only Black community, Marin City. More than 1000 Trump cultists in pickup trucks, motorcycles and cars pulled into a shopping center parking lot blowing horns, shouting racial slurs, taunting residents and even blocking a ballot drop box.
This sort of tactic has a long and infamous history that goes back to the days of the 19th century when southern Democrats enlisted paramilitary groups to intimidate Blacks and Republican office holders and candidates and to disrupt Republican campaigning.
Some historical perspective is in order here. The Democratic Party of the 19th century was the conservative party of the day and the Republican Party was the more liberal. Those roles switched long ago. The Democratic Party has now long been the more liberal party, the party of inclusion. The Republicans still claim to be the party of Abraham Lincoln but that’s just a blatant hijacking of Lincoln’s legacy. The Republican Party has become the party of Trump.
While the Trump trains were outrageous what is more outrageous is that there has been no repudiation of that behavior from the Republican party or from Republican politicians. This is what’s happening to America. Trumpism has pulled back the veil and revealed an ugly lesion on the face of America.
I recently opined to a friend that the Republican Party can never wipe away the stain of Trump. She responded that the Republican Party is dead. I believe that we were both wrong. The Republican Party has no interest in washing out the Trump stain and the Republican Party will continue to descend into out and out nationalism.
Approaching Crunch Time
8:50 P.M. Biden roars back in Virginia and is the projected winner. Cora’s gone to bed but I wake her up to tell her about Virginia.
“Oh thank God.”
9:40 P.M. Biden takes Minnesota and has a healthy lead in Arizona.
9:42 P.M. Trump takes Florida. Fucking Florida – again. Can we please give Florida back to Spain for a case of olive oil. Or just give it to any takers. Hell, give it to Russia, they deserve each other.
9:44 P.M. Trump takes to Twitter. “They are trying to steal the election.”
Delegitimizing the Vote
It wasn’t until 2016 that I heard a presidential candidate question the integrity of an election. That of course was Donald Trump who weeks before the election began casting doubt on its legitimacy. That was of course in anticipation of his losing the election. Even after winning the electoral college Trump insisted that the election was rigged because Clinton won the national popular vote.
It’s 2020 and after four years we’ve heard Trump cast doubt on his intelligence community, his generals, his former administration officials who have quit in disgust and most recently the medical community that’s trying to keep America’s head above pandemic flood.
11:30 P.M. While most of America is asleep and confident that their system will prevail the President of the United States has just begun the process of staging a coup. With millions of votes still to be counted and the outcome of four major states still in doubt he has taken to the stage and declared victory and announced that his administration is going to ask the Supreme Court to order all ballot counting to be stopped.
I’m going to bed now but I don’t know that I’ll be getting any sleep.