What’s on the Ballot?

This will be the last time I bother you before the election. I trust everyone has voted or has a plan for voting. Without fear of exaggeration, I think we all realize that this really is the most important election of our lifetimes. For the first time in our lives in this election we are being asked to vote for or against an ideology: democracy.

Because political usage in this country has been less than precise for some years, journalists, commentators and windbags of varying opinions have used the word ideology when talking about the political differences between Democrats or Republicans. The difference between the two parties has often–too often–been called ideological when in fact it’s political. Republicans and Democrats in the past may have disagreed about how much regulation was tolerable from the federal government, or the level of taxation or what services the government should provide. But–until quite recently—there was a fundamental agreement on the primacy of the law and the Constitution, on favoring orderly procedures and against the threat of violence if things didn’t go the way one side or the other wanted. The political differences didn’t include whether a President should be allowed to do whatever he saw fit, regardless of the law, or whether the instruments of government should be used to protect a President’s friends and persecute his or her enemies. There was a firm consensus that the United States was a democracy where the Constitution and the law prevailed.

Other ideologies—communism or fascism, for example—might see the role of the state differently, but here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we believed in democracy.

But this time is different. Why else would Bernie Sanders and George Will, David Brooks and Mark Shields, David Axelrod and Mike Murphy, Donna Brazile and Michael Steele all be on the same side? They have profound political differences, but they all believe in democracy—majority rule with protection of minority rights under the Constitution and the rule of law. When the smoke clears after this approaching historic election that we pray will end the nightmare we’ve been living under for the past three plus years, the profound political differences that separate these people will no doubt resurface. For the moment, however, those differences have been put aside to support democracy. Democracy is on the ballot this year, along with decency, integrity, honesty, compassion, consistency. transparency, equality, empathy, generosity, patriotism and a multitude of other virtues that have been brushed aside.

We have said so many times in years past that the coming election is the most important in our lifetimes. We can’t admonish ourselves for thinking that past contests were important, but because the choice on November 3 this year is so fundamental, we really do have to consider this election to be unique. Unique not because it is a choice between two candidates but because it is a choice between our fundamental beliefs and values and the domination of an ill prepared and ill suited  narcissistic nihilist,  who has systematically eroded those traditions and values and will continue or accelerate doing so if given another four years.

The debates—such as they were—were largely a waste of time and resources for anyone who cared about real issues: healthcare, the future of social security, climate change, racial justice, ending the pandemic, America’s role in the world and our obligation to our allies, nuclear security, privacy protections. There’s quite a list, but we didn’t hear much about any of them.

For most of us, maybe all of you devoted readers, it didn’t much matter. We made up our minds a long time ago. Still, these past few months and weeks have been an anxious time, and it gets more so the closer we get to Election Day. The problem is, that even if the outcome is good, it will be 78 days until the Inauguration. A lot of mayhem can happen in that time. And then, just to pile on the bad news, it may be a bit chaotic after that. One way or another, a large percentage of the population will be unhappy with the government, especially after all the apocalyptic rhetoric about fraud, theft, socialism etc. It may be a long time before things get back to normal, whatever that is.

I wish I had something more cheerful to say, but I want to be realistic. I’ll quote the cheeriest observation I can. Frederick Maitland, a 19th Century British lawyer and historian wrote: “We should always be aware that what now lies in the past once lay in the future.”

See you on the other side.



  1. Susan Friedman on October 31, 2020 at 9:33 am

    I love the folks who are all on the same side… perfect!!

Leave a Comment