While some see the presidential election of 2012 as a moratorium on one candidate or the other, for me it has been about the buying of an election. The notion that corporations could thwart the people’s will and simply purchase the candidate least likely to hold them accountable is a tragic one, and one that would end our reputation as a nation of democracy and ideals.
I was vacationing in Jamaica shortly after the 2000 election, which was decided by the Supreme Court. President Jimmy Carter had recently been on the island as an election observer there, a fact that two morning talk show hosts duly noted. “Who is he as an American to observe us after what they have just been through?” one of the hosts guffawed, as his partner joined him in raucous laughter. I say all of this to say that as a beacon of democracy we have begun at best, to lose our luster, and at our worst, to become laughing stocks. And the many instances of voter suppression this election season have not helped; they represent illegality, cynicism and wasted time, energy and capital where a good ground game might have resulted in victory.
As former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican, said to MSNBC about the absurdly long lines for early voting in Florida—a result of the inexplicable decision to cut early voting there by almost a week—”I don’t know what went on in Florida, but I do have to say that in this day and age, it’s inexcusable that in this country, we have anything like this going on.” The governor went on to say “I’ve led delegations around the world to watch voting and this is the kind of thing you expect in a third-world country, not in the United States of America.”
As someone who signed up for information from both campaigns, I must say that the President’s team had a superior volunteer-based ground game, something that, ultimately, money could not buy. I received the last email at 7:16 p.m. on election night requesting volunteers to make get out the vote calls for the President. Emails from Governor Romney’s team stopped over the weekend.
As the media began to call the states won by each candidate on election night, and it became evident that the President would win a second term, one droopy-eyed pundit on Fox 5 News said mournfully, “They have spent billions of dollars for the country to be back where it was.” Exactly.
So as the dust settles from months of bipartisan bickering, and those who are happy about the outcome and those who are not take the time to breathe, I must honor those who got out to the polls no matter what—people like the 78-year-old New Yorker whose house filled with water during Sandy. Laughing merrily, she described to an NBC reporter how she carefully took out her soggy purple parka, turned on the heat and dried the garment. “I had to have something to wear to go to vote,” she said, between giggles. In a makeshift voting tent with no heat and little light, she told the reporter why she came out to vote: “I have to,” she said. “It is my privilege!”
And not to be beaten by this elderly sprite is Chicago’s Galicia Malone, a pregnant woman who went to the polls after her water broke, voted between contractions and then drove herself to the hospital, giving new meaning to the lyrics “sisters are doing it for themselves.” Malone told CBS: “I never voted before so this made a major difference in my life. And I wanted this to be a stepping-stone for my daughter.”
Cheers Affirming Community. And welcome to the world, Baby Malone. I hope it will be a better one. BE.