With voting finished, take time to remember how glorious our democracy truly is

With voting finished, take time to remember how glorious our democracy truly is

November 4, 2020

The novelist and poet Charles Bukowski once wrote, “In the morning, it was morning, and I was still alive.”

He was describing the aftermath of a raucous night spent with too much strong drink — a poison Bukowski was much too fond of — but he could have been writing about our national, post-election hangover Wednesday morning.

Here we still are, in America, the freest, most just nation on earth. Yes, there are lingering headaches born of 10 months of partisan rancor that made this less like an election and more like a bar-room brawl. Animosity and enmity fueled the campaigns of 2020, but regardless of the outcome, we needn’t stay in this place of vitriol and anger.

Almost from its inception, the United States has suffered through elections that threatened to tear the nation apart. One actually did. In 1800, the first time a man named Washington wasn’t on a presidential ticket, the race ­between Federalist John Adams and Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson was a dirty, even slanderous affair decided on ugly regional lines.

Jefferson’s victory would impel Alexander Hamilton to found this very newspaper, to wage war on the author of the Declaration of Independence. Sixty years later, the election of Abraham Lincoln would propel our nation to its most brutal, savage and just war — against the Peculiar Institution.

And yet through it all, our ­nation eventually came together. After all, no sooner does a party take power than it fears losing it, and no sooner does the other lose power than it starts to scheme for rule again. Thus, each seeks anew to appeal to broader swaths of voters.

In this, one of the most difficult years in recent memory, we have more reason than usual to embrace the abatement of the season of partisan anger. The fact that the election coincided with a viral pandemic felt like a veritable symbol of divine wrath.

Most of us couldn’t resist pondering how COVID-19 and the ­response to it could affect the election. For Republicans, this meant sometimes overlooking the shortcomings of the administration’s response. For Democrats, it too often meant absurd claims that the president himself was to blame for all the deaths, as if a Democrat would have had some magical cure back in March.

Now we can be done with all that. Now we can focus on a vaccine, soon to arrive, and wonder not who it helps to win in November, but how it helps all of us return to lives of unmasked smiles and warm embraces.

Now, finally, we can be united in the fight against the virus, Congress can pass needed economic help and our news media can cover the pandemic as the health and economic crisis it is, not just another reason why one must vote for this candidate or the other.

The pantheon of American presidents is replete with good men and bad, heroes and villains; some were both at once. But storied though they may be, they didn’t create the country we inherited and will leave to our children. This nation was created by her people, not by those in power.

Our experiment survives because we believe in it — and believe in one another.

It may be no accident that in America, we vote as November begins and give thanks to Almighty God as the same month ends. A few weeks clear of the battle for national power, we will find ourselves seated again, with family and friends, as many as allowed, I suppose, in this strangest of years, but still thankful for freedom, for the privilege to live in a country where hard work offers the promise of reward.

What we may begin to do today, with far greater ease than we could yesterday, is to practice kindness. Let not the presidential election of 2024 commence Wednesday morning. Rather, let’s focus on the humanity of our fellow citizens, not on how “wrong” they are and how could they be so wrong.

If your side won, be magnanimous. If your side lost, be dignified. Know that you are an American first, and that once again our ship of state has safely journeyed through the stormy seas of political malice, docking safely in the ancient harbor of democracy.

David Marcus is The Federalist’s New York correspondent. Twitter: @BlueBoxDave

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