If you are an American, get out and vote today. It is important to exercise your franchise. Democracy is only strong when people participate.
I doubt if today’s vote in the US is as important as some people are making it. There has been a fair amount of hysteria online about this election, more than usual for a year in which there is no presidential vote.
I think it is to a large extent due to the polarization that has continued unabated since the 2016 election (and arguably even before that). To Democrats it seems that Republicans are Satan incarnate (at least for those who believe in Satan). The Republicans see the reverse. Both are telling their supporters they must vote, to stop whatever it is the others are planning to do.
Ask people about platforms and policies and I suspect they would be hard-pressed to give articulate, informed answers. Ask about the candidates, and you will hear at great length about personalities, usually less than flattering portrayals.
This sinking into the negative is affecting public discourse, and the effects will take years, if not decades to overcome. Pessimists would tell you the animosity is permanent, but I have a little more faith in the American people, despite how low the populace has sunk in recent years.
This vote is seen by many, if not most, as a referendum of sorts on the President and his policies. That is true of all mid-term elections, but there is so much more, so many local issues that don’t get the headlines yet affect how people cast their vote. The race for municipal dog catcher may be more important to some voters than who controls Congress, and they may vote accordingly.
No-matter the outcome, Americans will wake up Wednesday morning to a country divided, one where trust has vanished from the public square, where those of differing viewpoints are routinely seen as evil. Discourse has moved from policies to personalities, and when that happens everyone loses.
Personalities are important in political life. We hope our politicians, flawed as they may be, aspire to live better lives and lead for the betterment of everyone. We hope to choose good men and women to lead us. Most of the time we succeed.
When we aren’t successful, the system is self-correcting. There will be another election in a few years and we can vote the bad choices out of office. That’s one of the reasons democracy works. There is a peaceful transition of power (and if there isn’t, then it really isn’t a democracy).
In the United States today, millions of people will cast their ballot. The media will be telling you what is at stake, what it means for the policy objectives of the president and his party. The results will still be coming in when they start speculation on what this vote means for the next election in 2020. If you are watching the coverage, remember it is reactive, analysis will (hopefully) come later.
What is really means is that the system still works. I expect there will be many claiming that it doesn’t, that the results aren’t legitimate, for reasons X, Y or Z. These frequently are people who are still looking backward, re-fighting the 2016 campaign, or the 2000 campaign. They don’t understand democracy; they think it is only about winning.
America will wake up Wednesday morning still polarized, no matter what the results are of today’s election. I’m hoping though that there will be those who see beyond the rhetoric who can celebrate the process, and maybe, over time, work to bridge some of the divide.
I’m a dreamer, aren’t I?