Sunday, November 8, 2020

Congratulations to Joe Biden

Just about 4 years ago, I posted the following entry into my blog.  It was partly a congratulatory message to the new president, partly a review of my evening as I watched the returns come in, partly some thoughts on why Trump may have won, and lastly, a comment on the lack of turnout for such an important and pivotal election.  I have a link to it if you choose to read it in its entirety.

So, to be consistent, congratulations Joe Biden.  While one might say that Donald Trump won the 2016 election by employing tactics that were, to say the least, totally outside the norms of a traditional presidential campaign, Joe Biden's campaign was almost the exact opposite.  He was steady in his message of unity and did not make the mistakes that Clinton made by denigrating the supporters of Trump while ignoring the voters of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  But most importantly (to me), did not pretend that a pandemic that has killed over 240,000 Americans (over 1.2 million earthlings), would go away on its own, choosing to convey his message in ways that lessened the spread of the virus, while Trump conducted rallies that spread the virus among the citizens of our country.

There was one significant similarity between 2016 and 2020; the polls under estimated Trump's support.  It was not a blue wave as some predicted, although Biden will win the popular vote by a wider margin than Clinton.  Also, while one might say that the person, Donald Trump, was rejected by Americans as a leader, the GOP most likely will gain a few seats in the House (although it will still be a Dem majority), and will also retain control of the Senate, 51-49 or 52-48 depending on the outcome of the Georgia runoff.  So, we remain a split country in our perspective and philosophy, a state of affairs that will present president elect Joe Biden with an incredibly complex challenge.  

The big difference, hopefully the beginning of a trend, and not an anomaly, was the 2020 turnout.  We will break all records for votes cast, Biden and Trump both over 70 million received votes, both surpassing Obama's 2008 record.  Percentage of registered voters who will have voted will exceed 66%, may even reach 70%, a number not seen in a century.  As I said in my last post, we owe a debt to Donald Trump for this record, but more importantly, we must congratulate the American electorate who, rather that shrugging their collective shoulders and saying "all politicians are the same", made a choice and exercised their most precious right, the right to vote.

I watched some of the speech that Biden gave as the vote count continued into the weekend, and then his victory speech yesterday.  He continued expounding of the theme of unity that he displayed during the campaign, and I was happy that he addressed those who supported the president, while not attacking the president himself.  I would encourage that Biden, indeed all liberals, progressives, etc, do their best to put Donald Trump out of our consciousness.  He will continue his legal attacks on the election, will continue his attacks on the institutions of our country, but we must remain steadfast in our reaction, or in this case, non-reaction.  If there is one thing of which I am most certain, it is that Trump feeds on attention, positive or negative, and the best way to encourage him to disappear is to pretend he is already gone.  

Of course, the best way to remove Trump from the limelight, is for Biden to create and execute a successful plan to combat COVID-19 while allowing the economy the opportunity to recover.  Certainly a vaccine by early 2021 will help, but Biden must jump start confidence in the public's perception of the government's message concerning the use of mandates to protect the health of Americans versus our ubiquitous belief in freedom and liberty.  It is a fine line that Trump preferred not to walk, due to the difficulty of treading such a difficult path.  If there is one overall strength that Biden has always displayed, it is the ability to listen to a range of opinions, then merge those various opinions into actions.  He will need to temper the desire of those on the left to charge ahead while also assuring those on the right that change will be for the good of all, and not just those who voted for him.  

For now, we have just over 10 weeks before inauguration 2021.  We will hear about some of Biden's plans.  We will continue to suffer the ravages of the pandemic in terms of sickness, deaths, and economic stagnation.  But, as Biden has said many times, together, we can overcome these difficulties.  Together we can balance the needs for suppression of this deadly pandemic with the needs for our children to be in school, our small businesses to be able to operate safely, and our communities to incorporate the new normal of masks and distancing with the indomitable will of individual Americans to adjust, accept, and then prosper.

I am cautiously hopeful, and encourage anyone who reads this to be the same. 



Monday, November 2, 2020

Thank You Donald Trump

My opinion of Donald Trump is no secret; I am not a fan.

I don't agree with his policies or his leadership style, and I have a serious issue with his attacks on the institutions of our country, especially the free press and the judicial system.

But there is one area that I must give credit where credit is due; he has energized the electorate!

Whether you a true believer or a never trumper, it is expected that more people will vote in this upcoming election than any in history, and that, between those votes already cast and the expected long lines at the polls, we might even surpass a 60% turnout.

While the 2008 presidential election which resulted in the first African American President, also energized 
the voters and set a new standard for election participation, that campaign enthused the electorate on one side
of the aisle more than the other.  This election is spurring enormous interest on both sides, although for very
different reasons.

So, thank you Donald Trump.  Let's hope you have awoken the sleeping giant, and that 60% or more voter turnout will become the norm rather than the exception.  

Unfortunately, I am compelled to retract half of my appreciation for Trump's ability to get out the vote, as he, along with far too many GOP legislatures and conservative groups, are actively attempting to negate hundreds of thousands of votes through their actions in court over mail-in ballots.

Perhaps the electorate, in its newly found power and interest, will insist that our federal public servants, in cooperation with our state public servants, will fashion a national standard for elections, or at least a framework with some ability to tweak within that standard.

We know that more than half of the states allow for early voting, so let's mandate that all states must allow for some form of early, in-person voting, whether that be 7, 14 or 30 days.  We also know that some states allow for the tabulation of ballots before the actual election day, so let's mandate that as well, again with room for each state to determine how much time might be needed, so that a winner can be declared on election night rather than exposing our democracy to needless court rulings to determine our next president.

And why are we still married to the idea of election Tuesday?  The agriculture paradigm that created such a requirement is long gone.  As part of an early voting mandate, perhaps an election weekend might address both the bottleneck that can occur when interest is high and restrictions create long lines, and could also address the simple fact that the average working American is just that, working on Tuesday, in addition to whatever other obligations that might exist, family or otherwise.  A national time frame of Saturday through Monday, with Monday a nation holiday day - Democracy Day - might be worth considering.

As far as I can tell, there is no current legal standing that says that a voter in line as of close of polls, is not guaranteed the right to still cast her ballot.  Most states seem to allow just such a thing, again, as long as the person is in line by 8:00.

Yet there seems to be debate over whether a mail-in ballot received after election day, but postmarked on or before election day, is valid.  Clearly, mail-in ballots should be mailed at least a week before election day.  In fact, I would be fine if the national standard were set as such; all ballots must be postmarked by 3 or 5 or 7 days before election day, whatever each state believes will result in the vast majority being received and counted by election night.  But, since there is no such standard, it smells of politics when one party chooses to attempt to invalidate votes based on the assumption that a higher percentage of those votes will be for the other side.  Again, one should not wait until the last minute.  But, I am sure that the president would be alarmed to hear that some of his supporters were told to go home at 8:00, without being allowed to cast their vote because they waited until the last minute to get to their polling place.  Procrastination might be a trait that needs to be addressed, but the penalty should not be disenfranchisement.

I have said it ad nauseam, that Americans know far too much about pop culture, sports, and what is trending on U-tube, than we do about our democracy.  What percentage of people can name 5 Supreme Court Justices?  Their federal representatives in the Senate and Congress?  Their corresponding state reps?  We are proud of the greatness of our democratic experiment but fail to see that the experiment is ongoing, and needs
an informed and involved electorate to be successful.

But, one step at a time.  More people will vote in this election.  Good start.  Do we need a law that says if you don't vote, you get penalized in some way?  Boy, that just might explode the heads of people who resist being told what to do by the government but consider voting an important privilege.  Sometimes, often times, when an authority figure tells you to do something, your parent, your priest, your local police officer, your elected public servant, your "of the people, by the people, for the people" government, the advice is for the best.  Clearly, knowing when to swim upstream and fight the current is tricky, but always saying no smacks more of a childish behavior rather than a well thought out adult decision.

Still, rather than compelling people to vote, I would surely prefer that we assume the responsibility we have been given, and earn it by making the time to cast a vote once every two years, 4 times in 4 years if you vote in the primaries and the general.  That is a few hours a day, 4 days out of 1460 days, or about 1/4 of 1% of the days in that 4 year period.  Frankly, if we can't spare that much time, and just under half of us have not in the recent presidential elections, less than half again in the midterms, why do we get so angry when we don't like the government we elect?  We get what we deserve seems to apply here.

This election will shine a very strong light on the deficiencies of our electoral process.  It may even expose us to some very real negative consequences of not having a modern approach to such an important event.
When all is said and done, there should be only one goal for the future.  A federal framework that allows every citizen to be given the opportunity to vote, whether in person or by mail, whether a few days early or on election day, and a guarantee that their vote will be counted regardless of which party they prefer, and especially if their preference is different from that of the party in Washington or their state capital.