REFLECTIONS ON THE EVE
OF THE NATIONAL ELECTION
Today is Friday, October 30, 2020. We are now at the last weekend before Election Day in America, 3 November. I would like to share with you a summary of my thoughts on the state of our nation.
I have seen many elections come and go. I first voted in 1964, for Lyndon Johnson. I was thrilled and excited at all the to-do around that election as I have about every election since. A junior at Florida State University, I stood for hours in the student union awaiting the (late) arrival of Lady Bird and Lucy Johnson who were making a stop in Tallahassee on their famous train tour of the south. The choice that year was stark too. I saw Goldwater as hopelessly reactionary and Johnson as a fellow progressive southerner (the civil rights movement was in full swing). It was a no-brainer. I proudly dropped my absentee ballot in the slot at the post office to send it on its way to Pensacola. Florida wound up voting for Johnson although north Florida mostly went for Goldwater. I will approach voting on Tuesday with the same care and enthusiasm as I exhibited all those years ago. Voting in a democratic republic is a great honor and treasure. On this day, we all count the same.
Regular readers of this blog know my theory of contemporary America, so I will just summarize here. This is my take on where we are as a nation on the eve of the election of 2020:
This election is a clash between the two great movements in America in the last 60-70 years. The primary movement was, and still is, the Great Democratic Revolution. This brought a transforming measure of freedom, justice, and equality to blacks, women, the disabled, the old, homosexuals, and others. Notable reforms included such as Medicare expansion, anti-discrimination laws, Medicaid, housing assistance, food stamps, tuition support, expended health care coverage, and marriage equality. Along the way, overall the country prospered. In short, the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries saw a great democratization of American life. The Episcopal Church played an important role internally and externally in the GDR (this was the main point that attracted me to TEC in 1964).
The second great movement was the backlash against the GDR. It was a counter-revolution, or reaction against the dramatic democratic reforms. The people most frightened arose to oppose the social, cultural, and economic changes. These were mostly the white working class men, white southerners, white evangelical Christians, and big wealth.
From the 1950's to 1990, on the whole, the GDR prevailed, mainly because of a forced national unity in the Cold War. The differences between the two sides were kept down by the challenge of an external threat. After the Cold War ended in 1990, the internal divisions were left exposed; and ever since then the reactionaries have mounted a growing opposition to the GDR. This culminated in the Trump victory of 2016.
Trump had the potential of raising the counter-revolution to victory over the GDR but he failed to do that primarily because of his own unique personality. In order to give the reactionaries what they wanted (as repeal of Roe v. Wade) he made a faustian bargain with them: reactionary roll backs in exchange for authoritarian (extra-constitutional) powers. This was the fatal mistake of the reactionaries because, unknown to everyone, the country would be confronted by a new unifying external threat that would wreak havoc and death on a grand scale. For the first time since 1990, most Americans would be forced into unity by the coronavirus in 2020. Trump proved to be alternately incompetent and malevolent in the face of this national crisis. The U.S. has had by far the most cases and deaths of the virus, in the world. In the course of this national disaster, the public mood turned against Trump. This doomed both Trump and his counter-revolutionary allies. The reactionaries, who lashed themselves to the mast of the Trump ship, are going down with the ship. All signs indicate Trump will be defeated for reelection along with at least some of his allies. If so, the GDR will prove to be the stronger of the two historical movements even though the federal courts are now packed with right-wing judges/justices who will continue the counter-revolution.
Even though polls are showing Trump losing the election, one should not jump to the conclusion that he will concede. In fact, Republican lawyers are out right now working by the hundreds to diminish the vote count in all sorts of voter suppression tactics. Unless there is an overwhelming landslide against Trump, we can expect major court fights over allowing votes in certain places. Since courts are already packed with counter-revolutionary judges and the Supreme Court is firmly under their control we could see the courts restrict enough votes to throw the outcome to Trump, as SCOTUS did in 2000. This would be the worst nightmare scenario. Civil war would result between the majoritarian GDR side and the minoritarian reactionary side. God only knows what would happen then. So, it is not the election that bothers me as much as the aftermath. A great deal can happen between Nov. 3 and the meeting of the Electoral College on December 14.
This is the most important election of our lifetimes. It will decide whether the country continues on its path of democratic revolution or swings to counter-revolution to undo the reforms of the GDR. This also means whether the country is governed by the majority or the minority. If the majority prevails, the democratic republic prevails. If the minority prevails, the democratic republic falls and is replaced by a fascist state ruled by force. What could be more serious in American history since the Civil War than this?
In view of the gravity of this moment in our national history, I suggest a couple of prayers from The Book of Common Prayer.
Collect for an Election.
Almighty God, to whom we must account for all out powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect for our Country.
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of they favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through observance of thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For 250 years the people of the United States have built a great democratic republic. It has not been easy. In fact, it has too often been violent and bloody. We have argued and fought fiercely over our disagreements, but in the end we stayed together as a nation because we knew we were one people, we believed we had a common destiny. Next week's election will be a test of that commitment. I believe we will pass the test because our values are deeply ingrained in our national consciousness. I do not believe the American people are ready to hand over our country to would-be dictators and anti-democratic radicals.
Remember, we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.
[P.S. The last Graham-Harrison debate will air tonight, Friday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. on public television. No race has encapsulated the current state of national politics as much as this one. Polls show Senator Graham and his Democratic challenger running even, something that would have been unimaginable a year ago.]