I learned a lot about democracy, government, and politics when I worked at the Congressional Research Service back in the 1980s. It’s unfortunate that all citizens don’t get the opportunity to participate in the Congressional experience. While our choice of a democracy isn’t flawless, most political science folk agree that it generally works. I believe there would be far more agreement among U.S. citizens with some basic knowledge of how Congress does its job, and what is right and wrong about our chosen system of government.
Each of us has unique freedoms and rights under the Constitution, although the one that is most important to me is the right simply to vote. Think about it. Voting ensures that democracy actually works — despite its deficiencies. We choose our own government, and we pick our own leaders, from the President down to the local town council members — and we can replace them in the next election if necessary. At each level of government, we can participate in developing and implementing various policies for the benefit of all citizens. You may not think your vote is unimportant, but each vote actually can make a lot of difference. As one expert told me, the beauty of the American election process is that there’s no revolutions and nobody gets shot when we change our leadership.
I was fortunate during my experience working on Capitol Hill to know the late NY Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. One time I was walking with the Senator through one of the “tunnels” under the House and Senate buildings. It was right after a national election, and the tunnel halls were filling up with furniture removed from Congressional offices in which the resident legislator had been defeated in the November election a few weeks earlier. The Senator viewed the congested hallway and said “A lot of really smart people who came to Congress have to go back home because they only got 49 percent of the vote, sometimes the result of a single vote.” Moynihan was right, of course; each vote really can make a difference.
This year’s Presidential election is considered by many citizens to likely be one of the most important in U.S. history. Americans elected a candidate four years ago who has attempted to revise democracy and our Constitution to meet his own needs; suffice it to say that it hasn’t been business as usual. We’re now living somewhat in fear; millions are out of work, neighbors no longer talk, politicians don’t agree on anything, the economy is stagnant, and we’re all facing a pandemic virus crisis that has left nearly 170,000 current citizens dead because of the insufficient and inadequate national leadership in Washington to contain the problem.
As the Presidential campaign moves along, it is increasingly evident that the President’s popularity is sinking and his leadership is questionable, to the point that he may likely lose the election in November. This is an unusual, non-presidential man; he lies constantly, never apologizes, is a racist, and will likely do most anything he can to be reelected.
Your voting in the upcoming presidential election is very important. This president isn’t just embracing the voter suppression actions and gerrymandering of his party’s past history; he’s already claiming that the November election will be rigged — regardless of the vote count — so it is all but ensured that he will sue if he loses or conduct other voting suppression tactics. He has said publicly he has no qualms about monkey-wrenching with the election results for political purposes, despite offering no evidence of foul play. Yet, conspiracy theories fuel his interests about voting fraud. He created an election-tampering commission during his presidency a few years back, but terminated its operations when the commission found no evidence of fraudulent voting. Now he’s trying to hinder the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to distribute and retrieve voter ballots.
The best way we can ensure that the presidential election is fair is to have a demonstrable, accurate vote that will decisively choose a winner. With the concern of possible COVID-19 exposure by voters going to polling places on Election Day, the states have endeavored to facilitate the use of safer mail or email ballots to protect our health. The president opposes mail-in ballots to prevent citizens from voting, claiming that there will be widespread voter fraud, but continues to offer no evidence of criminal activity. This is not what a democratic nation does.
As Senator Moynihan once said, “People are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.”
Don Feliciano ~ Luray, Va.
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