It’s not a cliché to open a column on election day with the words “Now it’s all over but the shouting”. In 2020, at least, this is probably an inaccurate observation. Both parties have spent weeks, if not months, preparing to challenge the results in the key states that will determine who will occupy the White House over the next four years. Their court battles, if it comes to that, will make the long countdown to the 2000 post-election election in Florida look like a trip to the people’s court.
Yet that’s what an election is: a people’s court. For all the polls, comments and social media messages, what will happen on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 is the ultimate judgment. Elections have often been extended over the past decades – a trend that needs to be curbed, but that’s for another column.
A significant number of ballots can now be cast for several days after the polls close. This undermines the nation’s confidence in the security of the electoral process. Actions in states like Pennsylvania, under its highest jurisdiction, have opened the door to this uncertainty.
This was a mistake. Every vote should be counted as long as it is legitimate. Republicans are not wrong to argue the need to protect the process from fraud and manipulation. Our right to vote – our right to choose those who will make decisions for us about every aspect of our lives – is one of the most sacred rights we have. People have fought and died for the extension of the right to vote to those whom the founders did not see fit to grant it in the first place.
Everyone has opinions. Some of us have the privilege of sharing these opinions with a large and varied audience because we are allowed to participate in the ongoing experiment in mass media called “the news”. Frankly, the performance of many of my colleagues in the industry over the past four years has been scandalous. Rather than trying to rise above the filth of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, many of them – from prominent institutions such as CNN and the New York Times – have chosen to take their place in the mud.
It seems obvious that Trump has benefited from these exchanges far more than those of us who believe we practice information in one way or another. Used car salespeople probably enjoy a higher level of trust with the public than we do today – and we are largely responsible for that. If there were to be a change in the leadership of the nation once the votes are counted and certified, it is unlikely to improve.
America is an amazing country. Our history can be summed up by the idea that we are a nation full of people who got angry about something, chose to do something and prevailed. From George Washington’s outrage over the taxes levied against him by the British Crown to today’s pervasive peaceful protests against police officers who abuse their power and authority, we are a country where people are making major social changes (often, but not always, peacefully) because the rights guaranteed to us by our Constitution give us the tools we need if we are willing to spend, as the poet said, “our blood, our toil, our tears and our sweat.
“We, the people”. Is there a sweeter and more majestic phrase than that in the English language? Perhaps there is. But it is unlikely that there is one that has had a greater impact on the history of man on Earth than this phrase. Our nation. Our country. Our government. Our sovereignty. We are a responsible people in charge of our own destiny. The rule of the majority, tempered by the protection and respect for the opinions and actions of the minority. A strong system that protects us from tyranny – but only if we commit ourselves and take the opportunity to choose those who hold power over us by voting.
Today, I’m going to make my opinion count the way it really does: I’m going to go to my polling station and I’m going to vote for the President of the United States, the United States Senator and the Member of the United States House of Representatives. My choices may or may not prevail. It doesn’t matter. My vote is my vote, just as your vote is your vote.
The editor of Washington Newsday, Peter Roff, has written extensively about American politics and experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International and