A Curmudgeon Rerun: "Vote Anyway"
This piece originally ran on September 2nd, 2019. As election day 2020—possibly our last—is tomorrow, I thought it was an apt time to republish it. I would normally invite you to enjoy the week's entry, but it's not that kind of piece. TWC
Week after week, your Curmudgeon fights nobly against an oh-so-powerful temptation to write about national politics. I resist, not because there’s any shortage of improprieties in that department, but because it’s not primarily what The Weekly Curmudgeon is about. One can read those kinds of rants anywhere, while diatribes regarding improper use of quotation marks are somewhat less common. True, I’ve occasionally dipped a toe in those waters, but I generally find it far more therapeutic to whinge about drivers who fail to signal, idiots who blast loud music, public makeout sessions, bad theatre manners, or ridiculous phrases that have crept into our language.
This week, I’m letting the dam break. Sit tight, folks. We’re going dark. Very dark.
A few weeks back, I was watching the debates among the Democratic candidates for president, and I found myself somewhat charmed and somewhat saddened by the nostalgia of it all. It reminded me of a time not so long ago when there was a far greater chance that the democratic process would function as it was supposed to, back before we became an autocracy . . . back when there was still a chance that our votes counted.
What? Too bleak? Well, I did warn you.
There is now in place such a smorgasbord of methods for thwarting the voting process that, as I see it, it’s foolish to believe there’s any chance at all that the upcoming presidential elections will be accurately tabulated. We’ve got proven Russian interference—an alarming breach that no one in this administration has shown the slightest interest in addressing (for painfully obvious reasons). We’ve got gerrymandering, a process by which districts are artificially manipulated in one party’s favor. We’ve got voting machines, which, it’s been demonstrated time and again, can be rigged. And of course, we’ve got various forms of voter purging, voter intimidation, and voter suppression.
And the fun doesn’t end there.
One of the most despair-inducing realties is this. Even if justice were to somehow triumph against the odds and the votes were all recorded as they ought to be (which won’t happen), this particular president—with his utter lack of ethics, honor, or patriotism—would have no compunction whatsoever about declaring the results false and staying in office until the matter was resolved. And you know as well as I do that he has a mob of followers who would allow that to happen.
And then there’s an item you may have missed: The Federal Election Commission, which oversees US election law, is supposed to have six members—three Republicans and three Democrats. But one member left in 2017, then another in 2018, leaving four; that was still a quorum, so the group was still able to function. But then, only recently, another member left. And now, without a quorum, they can’t start any new investigations.
According to an August 30th piece on NPR, “Barring some kind of miraculous last-minute reprieve, Friday will be the last business day that the Federal Election Commission will be able to function for quite a while, leaving the enforcement of federal campaign finance laws unattended ahead of the 2020 election.”
You know who’s supposed to appoint replacements to the FEC? It’s the president—the very one who, in this case, stands to gain the most from having a nonfunctioning FEC, as he is clearly intending to violate election laws. Eliminating oversight helps smooth the way for the wrongdoing he’ll surely perpetrate.
And so what, right? Another day, another atrocity, yes? There are approximately 419 terrible things going on right now as you’re reading this, all results of the stunning, impossible-to-imagine evil force that is the Trump administration. It’s a tsunami. It’s too many horrors and flagrant rules violations to chase. And I’m not here to fix any of that. I cannot. And that’s really my point this week. I’m weary of the naïveté that has us continuing to believe that our votes count, against all evidence to the contrary. It’s the same kind of positive thinking that continues to push illogical, nice-sounding nonsense like “if you dream it, you can do it,” and “everything is happening as it’s supposed to.”
And so you may ask, why vote? If the votes only disappear into the ether or are declared false, why bother? And my answer is this: In these, the final days of our democracy, we ought to exercise every single right we still have, passionately and patriotically, loudly and boldly, religiously, zealously, until the very last second when it all gets shut down, until they seal the borders, silence the dissenters, jail the journalists, deport the brown people, remove the safeguards, and officially declare a new form of government. Generations from now, when the true history is written, I want people to know we went on record while we still could, even if it was merely a symbolic gesture.
And so I’ll be watching every debate, voting in every election, marching in all the marches, sharing truths on social media, and donating to as many candidacies and causes as I can. Because I want to remember this. I want to treasure these liberties, this voice, this remembrance of a system of government I believed in. All too soon, it will all be gone.
If you need to be lifted out of the abyss, I have little to offer. Perhaps we can all take some small comfort in the fact that I know very little about politics or government, which could mean that my assessment of all this is completely wrong, no more than a wild conspiracy theory. I’d be so relieved if that turned out to be the case. Sadly, I don’t think it is.
But please, vote anyway.