Election Day 2020 is the culmination of four years — or 244 years, depending on your perspective — of American democracy being stressed and stretched, tested and tried, pulled down and pushed around. About twelve hours from now, we will begin to get reports from around the nation of states “going for” Republican incumbent, Donald Trump or Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.
It’s been a long four years since the last presidential election and will be a long week until the final states are called, but there are some things that we can be grateful for, even before the first election results are reported.
We can be grateful:
1 — That we lived to see it. “Tomorrow” is not promised to anyone. There were a lot of things — beyond a once-in-a-century pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives — that could have taken us out before Election Day 2020. Many great Americans who were with us in 2016 didn’t make it to today, including George and Barbara Bush, John Lewis, Kobe Bryant, John McCain, Chadwick Boseman, and many in your family and mine.
We made it though — that’s reason enough for gratitude.
2 — For 97,000,000 early voters. Nearly 100 million Americans voted before November 3. The final number will easily top 100 million when states make their final revisions and those last minute vote-by-mail ballots make it to Boards of Elections offices.
97 million early votes nearly doubles the 2016 early vote totals and accounts for more than 70% of all votes cast four years ago.
As I wrote previously, this record-breaking turnout signals that American democracy is alive and well. Your voice is your vote. Thank you America, for speaking up and speaking out.
3 — To Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke. Record-breaking turnout doesn’t turn out itself. After an electoral defeat in 2018, Abrams immediately set out to make sure any Georgian who wanted to vote and was eligible to vote would be able to vote in 2020; O’Rourke got on the GOTV bandwagon some time later and threw everything he had into turning Texas blue-ish.
The fact that we can talk about Democrats being viable statewide candidates in Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Florida is a testament to Abrams, O’Rourke, and the nameless and faceless thousands of other workers and volunteers who convinced a pessimistic populace that their votes mattered and their voices deserved to be heard.
4 — For Hillary Clinton. The 2020 election — in fact, the past four years — had to have been bittersweet for Clinton. Like all Americans, she’s had to watch the president mismanage the pandemic, be impeached, celebrate “very fine” White supremacists, degrade and demean the office, and use the presidency to line his pockets.
What’s worse, she has been cast as, “the only person in America who could lose to Donald Trump.” If Biden goes on to win today, she will go from being cast to being typecast as one of the most unpopular candidates in history — a reputation of which she must surely be aware.
Despite this, the former Secretary of State has been the quintessential immediate-past-losing-candidate. She’s spoken up only sparingly — and only when doing so could help Biden or the Democratic party.
She’s said and done all the right things and not let herself be dragged into Trump’s never-ending political dustups, for which a grateful nation says, thank you.
5 — That Trump and Biden crossed the finish line. This is the oldest “top of the ticket” in modern history. Trump is 74. Biden is two weeks shy of 78. That’s old. The campaign trail is grueling for young whippersnappers. It is exponentially so for those on their last whip and final snap. Trump even contracted a potentially deadly virus a month before election day, though through the miracle of modern presidential medicine, it was hard to tell.
We should be grateful that both candidates made it — with surprising aplomb — across the finish line. Like any sporting event, the fans want to see both teams at full strength during the championship. Trump and Biden brought their respective A-games. The American people (not actual judges) will be the final judge.
6 — For the media. Granted, I reserve the right to harshly criticize them if they screw up election night; however, they have done the Lord’s work these past four years keeping the American people in the know about our government. From revealing tax return and hush money scandals, to reporting atrocities at the US southern border, to debunking hoaxes, to putting their own lives at risk to report on pandemics, to remembering lives well lived, to covering only the 3rd impeachment in our nation’s history, many members of the media have earned their worth and then some these past four years.
They make mistakes, for sure, but if not for them telling the stories, we would have little means to hold our leaders to account.
7 — For social media. This one may be a bit of a tougher sell, I realize. Social media is proof that too much democracy can be a scary thing. On social media, everybody can have a voice and everyone’s voice — no matter how nutty — carries near-equal weight. However, social media allows candidates to take their message directly to the American people and the American people to take their concerns directly to the candidates. That can’t be all bad.
Also, social media makes the traditional media better. They can be fact checked in real time. Their limited bandwidth is significantly expanded by amateur reporters, commentators, and videographers. News and information is no longer disseminated by the fortunate few with high-level access and a monolithic worldview.
Again, that can’t be all bad.
8 — For poll workers, campaign workers, and volunteers. If we weren’t in a once-in-a-century pandemic I’d tell you to kiss a poll worker today or shake a poll worker’s hand or give a poll worker a great big hug. But because you’re grateful, do the opposite. Don’t hug them, don’t handshake, wear your mask, maintain your social distance. But tell them thank you just the same.
Democracy is a lofty ideal and we’re still working to perfect it. But even the loftiest of ideals require legwork and logistics to make them go. Folks have braved threats of violence and contracting an infectious disease to help secure the franchise for everyone.
They deserve our undying gratitude.
The polls will be closed soon and across the country Americans will gather at socially distant, state-sanctioned, election night get-togethers to watch history being made. No matter the results, let’s remain hopeful and optimistic about the future of this great nation. We have so many things to be grateful for, not the least of which is democracy herself.