In the summer of 2016, I visited North Carolina — a state that went blue for Obama in 2008 but flipped back to red for Romney in 2012. Certainly a dynamic place in terms of voter diversity. Yet I distinctly remember for this election cycle seeing lawn after lawn after lawn bedecked with Trump 2016 regalia: flags, and signs, and makeshift billboards. ‘Damn, these people are stoked,’ I remember thinking. But rather than take their collective fervor seriously, I simply wrote it all off as ‘what a crazy world we live in’.
The stakes, in some ways, are much higher now than they were in 2016. Back then, there existed a leftist echochamber undercurrent that, while Trump was indeed an existential threat, few among even moderates thought he had a chance of actually winning. Enough people would come out and vote. Sanity would prevail. All would continue as planned — for whatever that meant and was worth.
Now though, I think that I was horrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency to the point that I subconsciously blocked myself from seeing these signs of a very potentially real victory all around me. I saw this possible outcome as inconvenient to my worldview, and disastrous to many others’ — and so while I was certainly concerned, I was never very worried until it was far too late.
But I do feel like 2020 is one election that we’ll look back on as a “turning point” no matter the outcome — as either a rejection or reaffirmation of Trump and everything he stands for. We now know the true effect of the stakes because many of us lived through many of them. And perhaps much more poignantly, some of us haven’t survived through them.
Full disclosure, I wasn’t happy with either candidate in 2016, and I’m not in 2020 either. I was an adamant Andrew Yang supporter this time around, and appalled by the rank hypocrisy he was mistreated with by the establishment left media and DNC. But, as it seemed like then, there seems like an obvious choice now — albeit not a very palatable one, yet again. But hey, you make lemonade out of whatever fruits life bears you while working toward the drink you actually want.
Such are many decisions in life. I’ve yet to actually meet an OG Biden supporter either online or IRL. In some ways I feel like this fact should worry me — as there was no shortage of zealous Clinton fans in 2016. But the more I think about this contrast, the more I’m actually encouraged. I’m plenty traumatized like many when it comes to being skeptical of poll numbers — I’ll believe the results when I see them play out. But the fact that Biden has as much support as he does despite my own current echochamber lack of exposure to his base is indeed a hopeful sign that there’s legit force behind him.
Truth be told, I feel the least need to share such a lengthy Facebook encouragement than in any previous election (*knocks on all the wood*). I usually do so (especially in non-presidential years) because there are always those who don’t yet understand the vital importance of local races — so even if I can get one or two more people to vote, it’s well worth the effort. Hell, in recent years I’ve voted in local races where my candidate literally won by one vote, so, people, you do make a difference.
I’ll honestly be surprised if this election doesn’t far exceed the previous presidential turnout. Between everyone Trump has infuriated and further disenfranchised over the past four years, and those who are lashing out in support of his seemingly dying cause, I can’t see a world where we don’t shatter the vote record (though I hope more due to the former camp’s energies than the latter’s).
But your vote still counts. It’s as important a statement as I can imagine — and one that reminds me of what most people know me on Facebook as: the beach cleaning professor guy. Like each piece of trash I pick up, a single wrapper can seem irrelevant in the moment. But I’ve collected a ton (literally) of plastic pieces over the past several years of beach cleaning. Our small choices, together, add up to big changes. But it all starts — and continues — with each single bit.
For some people this process is far more burdensome than just ‘finding the time’ to vote, whether due to lacking transportation, multiple jobs, or other practical constrictions. But I’m hoping that between early and mail-in voting, there’s a far greater turnout in addition to these new energies. It’s all too easy, as noted, to feel as if taking time out of your day isn’t worth the effort — especially when that luxury is in reality much more of a sacrifice. For many though, the challenge can be simply overcoming the contradiction that the options before you don’t really represent your true views and values — the world we need.
Is Biden the best man to be president? Seems very debatable. Is he the best choice given our binary options to steer our path forward? I’m going to vote a convictive ‘yes’.
I’m reminded of an anecdote from Ron Chernow’s Grant biography I read earlier this year. He relates how Susan B. Anthony — one of the greatest women’s rights advocates in United States history — ended up campaigning for president Grant’s reelection. She was well aware of his relatively progressive ethos for the era — assigning record numbers of women to previously underrepresented governmental positions, like as postmistresses. As such, she was hopeful that he might come out in support of women’s suffrage. He did not, and eventually told her that while he admired and supported her, he could not make such a bold public move. But he would continue to fight for her cause in other ways whilst navigating the tattered social, economic, and political landscape of post-Civil War America.
Despite the president’s non-committal record on the issue, Susan B. Anthony cast her ballot, was arrested, tried, and convicted for voting for president Grant — a man who would not openly support her cause. Yet she still voted for him, because he was closer to the world she wanted to live in than the other.
She never lived to see that world she dreamed. Most haven’t. But we’ve lived to see hers, and future generations can live to see ours.