A wonderful video clip has been making the Internet rounds. In it a little girl, age three or four, is crying her eyes out. "I'm tired of seeing Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney," she wails. I'm with her. As I write this on election morning, Bronco Bama is said to have a slim lead over the man Ry Cooder calls Mutt Romney. The stats are so close that I may wake up tomorrow morning and find that the Mutt is my president. I've listenedd to him now for more than a year and I still don't know what he REALLY believes. As for the Bronco, I hear that he teared up during his final speech of the campaign. Perhaps they were tears of happiness: whatever the outcome, the marathon was finally over.
My wife and I arrived at our polling place, the Manoa Fire House, at 7 this morning. The line was already gratifyingly long. Just before we had our turn, a black couple stepped up to the registration table. The old gals running the operation asked for the couple's IDs and, when those did not completely conform with what was in the poll book, the pair was thoroughly embarrassed before finally being allowed to vote. When Joanne and I had our turn to sign the book, we too were asked for our IDs. I replied, "You know perfectly well we don't have to show them."
"Well, you will next time," came the retort. "We'll see," said I. We voted without showing our IDs.
Efforts, mostly by the GOP, to curtail early voting and impose voter-ID restrictions, were turned back, mostly by Democrats, via lawsuits. The courts proved once again to have more integrity than the political process. One would hope that is always the case. The decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court concerning torture, incarceration and unfair trials during the War on Terror mostly ran against the Bush Administration's extreme positions on these civil-liberties issues. This was despite the growing presence and influence of Bush appointees on the Court.
America has never before been so sharply divided since the Civil War, the sesquicentennial of which we currently are marking. A new movie about Lincoln gets released today. Abe suspended habeas corpus during the War Between the States in order to incarcerate Southern spies and sympathizers… shades of Guantanamo. The Republic and our freedoms survived such abuses.
Whether the Bronco or the Mutt is my president tomorrow morning, my fatigue and frustration at the close of this endless, ugly election campaign are tempered by my faith in the resilience of our legal system to forestall the worst tendencies of this vitriolic and cynical cycle in our political history.
I'm writing this on Tuesday night, as election updates scroll across my television screen, rather than on Wednesday morning. Why? For one, it seems like it will be a late night. "#StayInLine" is a trending hashtag on Twitter, lines to vote are up to four hours long at some polling stations, and the polls will rightly stay open until everyone in those lines has had the chance to exercise his or her right to vote.
"It should not require this kind of heroism to vote in this day and age." -Van Jones, CNN.
I couldn't agree more with that statement. In a country with notoriously low voting rates, why isn't early voting more readily available in order to avoid the before- and after-work hours voting congestion that deters so many voters? Furthermore, why isn't Election Day a holiday? Doesn't that say something about how seriously we, as a country, take voting? It goes hand in hand with the first half of this column, in which my dad points out that it is unlawful to demand ID in order to allow a citizen to vote (especially when in-person vote stealing is almost as rare as a glance at Mitt Romney's tax returns). These roadblocks should not exist, and I'm tired of it. I think most Americans - the ones who don't unjustly benefit from pointless rules and regulations that disproportionately affect minorities, of course - feel the same way.
At the moment, I'm just tired.
Still. I am heartened by those people who are waiting in line for hours, right now, despite the cold or the inconvenience. I'm heartened by the fact that I have friends who woke up at 5A.M. this morning so they could take the bus to a polling station to vote before work. I still have hope. There are hundreds of people threatening to move to Canada if the election doesn't turn out in their party's favor - but I know those people won't actually move. They'll deal with whatever may come of this election, and they'll stick around to vote in the next one. They wouldn't be so upset otherwise.
Apathy is the death of progress. The ranting and the raving I can deal with, if it means someone cares.
If anything, I hope the hardships people have faced in attempting to vote this year make us all take a long, hard look at the process as it currently operates. It's not perfect, and it's not entirely fair. We still have a ways to go. Hopefully we're not too worn out to keep going.