Tomorrow is Election Day. The polls say the path to victory for the incumbent president is a very steep one. But after 2016, no one trusts the polls, no matter how many articles explain how pollsters have adjusted their methods since then. (For the record, 2016’s predicted margins didn’t give me anywhere near the level of confidence in a Democratic win that everyone else seemed to have.) Anyway, anything other than a landslide Election Day victory in either direction will almost certainly make the days and weeks ahead miserable. This wouldn’t be the case if the President of the United States were setting expectations that the unprecedented level of voting by mail—necessitated by an ongoing public health crisis he has exacerbated at every turn—will make it unlikely that we’ll have a definitive result on Election Night. Instead, knowing that he may well have a lead in votes counted at the end of the day due to more Democrats voting by mail, he’s preemptively rejecting any prolonged process and continuing to baselessly insist that rampant voter fraud exists. His nakedly undemocratic ravings won’t sway election officials or credible news organizations, but his supporters are another story, and if a recent plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan is any indication, the potential for political violence is no mere paranoid fantasy. Maybe this is all overblown, and experts are right to be confident that a duly elected president will be sworn in on January 20th. But anxiety is high, and January 20th seems very distant. More than any other moment in my lifetime, the nation legitimately feels like a powder keg.
Having spent the previous 11+ years in Massachusetts and New York, this will be the first time I’ve voted in Pennsylvania since 2008. And there is a good chance this election will be decided by my home state. There has already been tension here in Philadelphia around unsanctioned “monitoring” of early voting sites, and both candidates have been feverishly crisscrossing the state in the campaign’s final days. Compounding that pressure is a fresh wave of unrest following the police killing of Walter Wallace, a Black West Philadelphia man whose mental health issues were already known to the Philly PD. Another National Guard occupation, another set of intermittent curfews, another round of hand waving from the police commissioner, saying, hey, most of us do a good job.
Somehow there’s enough going on that it’s remarkably easy to forget that just one week ago, the Senate Republicans hijacked the Supreme Court in an act of breathtaking hypocrisy, filling a vacancy in an election year in precisely the manner they refused to do it when a nominee was put forth by a Democratic president four years ago.
If you’re reading this at some point in a vastly improved future and it all sounds cartoonishly dystopian, I should mention that, after four years of eroding democratic norms and a White House steeped in groundbreaking levels of corruption and incompetence, you learn to live with the constant outrage and go about your business. It’s not complacency (at least I hope it’s not) and it’s not numbness, it’s just adaptation. Leah and I have been keeping sane lately by focusing on our biggest home-improvement project to date, two large sets of wall-mounted bookshelves. It’s been a long and sometimes painful learning process, but we’re excited to see the result taking shape. If we’re going to be confined for the foreseeable future by COVID-19 or curfews or some other calamity to come, at least this will be a nice place to do it.
But I’m hoping upon hope that the light at the end of this tunnel will make itself known soon, and that that process begins tomorrow.