Put aside the costumes and the freaky shots intended to scare. This year, what’s scary is not Halloween but the election three days later. As it approaches, everyone is exchanging their doomsday predictions. Never have there been so many, or so many reasons to fear the worst.
I don’t mean the kind of fear you might have if you’re worried about how few/many states your candidate will carry. That I’ve dealt with, without feeling like our democracy somehow depended on it.
There is no such thing as a perfect election, just like there is no such thing as a perfect trial or a perfect parent, but it must be fair enough, which is not easy to do when one side is running a campaign to disenfranchise voters.
The election is being held as COVID-19 is peaking everywhere. The Trump campaign has decided that the fewer votes that are counted, the more likely Donald Trump is to win reelection. The less democracy the better.
Their definition of a fair election is one that discourages minorities and first-time voters from voting at all, and one that establishes every requirement Republicans can think of to avoid counting those ballots.
So, if you don’t send your ballot until Election Day, or if it lacks the required signatures, or if it has the right postmark but delivery was delayed, your vote can be tossed away in the hope that not counting it will contribute to a victory by the candidate you didn’t vote for.
Never before have I thought that a landslide, or at least a clear win, is essential to keeping us from descending into days of darkness — worse than these — because democracy really is on the line.
It scares me that one side is not even giving lip service to the fundamental principles of our democracy. Scaring Blacks from voting is contrary to the Fifteenth Amendment. It is un-American. Scaring anyone from voting violates the Constitution. Ironically, the open efforts at intimidation may have played a part in spurring record numbers of Americans to vote.
Even so, we will never know how many ballots were not cast because the Republicans succeeded in intimidating voters; because there was only one drop box in counties that span tens of miles; or because the absentee ballot was unnecessarily complicated with requirements for witnesses and for double signatures, such that first-time voters didn’t even bother, which was the whole point.
But this much is clear: If Republicans drag this election into the Supreme Court that so conveniently contains three Trump appointees, plus Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, they will take the Supreme Court with them in losing all claims to legitimacy.
The George W. Bush v. Al Gore election changed the way most Americans look at the court. For the first time, they saw it as a blatantly political institution, meaning that its decisions have no greater claim to authority than that of any other partisan institution. Former Justice John Paul Stevens once told me that no case had done as much as Bush v. Gore to undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.
Within minutes of the court’s decision, Gore called Bush to congratulate him. On television, Gore graciously conceded. In doing so, he preserved the legitimacy of the democratic process, even as he affirmed what to me will always be an undemocratic decision.
If Trump is even close, he will almost certainly refuse to concede and order his lawyers to do whatever is necessary to keep him in office. I don’t remember any candidate ever saying in advance of the election that the result would likely be decided by the court. That is not supposed to happen.
Close elections make bad law.
Most elections are contests between two decent candidates, about whom reasonable people can disagree. Neither side views the other with respect this year. Utter derision feeds the heat of the moment, so hot that families cannot sit together; friendships, both real and virtual, have been ruined; workplaces have been torn apart — and it would be worse if we were actually seeing and speaking to more people. It is bad enough as it is.
There is a reason police across the country are preparing for people to pour onto the streets Tuesday night, COVID or no COVID. No one will be encouraging public celebrations if Joe Biden wins. The worry on the Democratic side is mostly that angry whites will get violent. The other worry, the bigger worry, is what will happen if Trump wins.
I don’t want to think about that. My mother was from Salem, and I grew up knowing about the witches. Scary stuff for a kid, but nowhere near as scary as this election is to me.