Elections used to be a joyous occasion in America, a way to celebrate our democratic institutions and come together as a nation to choose our leaders.
That’s my “mystic chords of memory” speech for this election. The reality, as we all know, will be a lot different in 2020.
Armed men and women will be at polling places — so much for celebrating “unity.” If anyone’s smiling, we won’t know it because they’ll be wearing masks. People are sullen, morose, resigned — not a celebratory bunch, that’s for sure.
They used to close the bars on Election Day — at least until the polls closed. Imagine them trying to do that today. We don’t even want our bars closed for a pandemic.
Today, our political differences have become matters of life and death — or so we’re told. But America wasn’t set up for an election in which people were voting as if their “lives depend on it.” Power was supposed to be so diffused and divided that no one man or one institution would be able to threaten the life of an individual American. There were checks, balances, and safeguards in place to protect the individual from the tyrannical forces that the Founders knew could well be loosed upon the public.
Americans are divided, mad at each other, fearing the opposition, hating each other — I’m sure during the 1850s, there were similar observations, probably from my great-great-grandpa. Or, then again, maybe not, since he was in Ireland at the time, starving on his potato farm.
His son somehow got the money together for the passage and landed in New York City. Was he surprised the streets weren’t paved with gold? Was he shocked at the “No Irish need apply” signs? It was a hard life, to be sure. But at least he felt he had his destiny, and that of his family, in his own hands.
His son moved to Chicago and became a motorman on the streetcar, met and married a nice Irish girl, and raised a family. Thanks to World War II and the GI Bill, all the children went to college and became successful Americans.
What was the “most important election of their lifetime”? Did they ever vote as if their “lives depended on it”? There were important elections, to be sure. The 1932 contest was a choice between government action during the depression or government inaction. With some people starving the street, it must have been an easy choice. Eight years later, unemployment was still in double digits, and much of the New Deal had been canceled because the Supreme Court ruled large parts of it unconstitutional. So while it was an important election in 1932, was it really a life-or-death proposition?
Michelle Obama thinks today’s election is even more important.
I know that not everyone will listen to me. I’m still a black woman speaking in a Democratic convention. But I ask you to mobilize with the same enthusiasm, the same passion of 2008 and 2012. Get yourself comfortable shoes, pack your backpack with sandwiches and line up until you get to the polling station. Or ask for your voting form in the mail today. Mail it in now and make sure it gets to your destination on time. This administration is doing all possible to sabotage the right to vote. That’s why we have to mobilize as if our life depended on it. Don’t think it can’t get worse than this. If Joe and Kamala don’t win, things will get even worse.
This goes beyond exaggerated, hyperbolic political rhetoric. This is outright fear-mongering. Scaring people into voting for you because they falsely and dishonestly fear for their lives is the tactic of totalitarians, not Democrats.
Is this what Democrats have been reduced to? Bereft of ideas except for the toxic sludge of socialist nostrums that they can’t sell, the Democratic Party is grasping for power legally and, failing that, “by any means necessary.”
Maybe this is the most “important election of our lifetime.”