Last Monday, I voted early for the first time in my life (probably because we didn’t have early voting in New York before now. That would explain it.)
I am reminded to pass on that indisputable fact by the multiple phone calls I get every day (just did, three times in the last half hour) with unidentified callers undoubtedly urging my vote for someone or other.
To reiterate, I voted. You can stop calling. (I’d advise the other constant callers to stop calling but they won’t. They insist on telling me my car warranty has run out, my identity is being stolen and my account [?] will be charged over a thousands bucks for eyeglasses [?] I didn’t order which nevertheless will be delivered shortly.)
The polling place was somewhat surprising. Lots of helpful and cheerful election workers, certainly more of them than of us voters, but we voters were flowing in on a regular basis. I’d expected it to be quieter. But the joint was jumping. And it was only day three of early voting, which goes from June 12 to June 20, followed by an actual Election Day on June 22.
I tried early voting to see how it felt. I’ve always loved Election Days, joining my entire community in the historical process of selecting our government officials. But early voting was adequately satisfying.
After I voted, my friend Andrea and I were sitting in a shady park, talking about a number of things, including politics. I was waxing optimistic over the massive, thrilling power we voters wield, my sense of how our potency (and anger) is neglected and overlooked by most pundits during the long periods when there are no significant elections.
We the People are being dissed.
Democracy is being threatened, pundits say; we are on the brink of autocracy; democracy is so fragile; we are in danger; our votes are being/will be suppressed, tossed out, denied. The strength of violent mobs of white supremacists! The end of our nation!
These pundits are, for the most part, really smart, engaged, knowledgeable people whom I deeply appreciate for their analyses. And I don’t doubt they genuinely fear what’s going on. But they are also pessimists in a world in which there are more pessimists than optimists. And they don’t seem to grasp how huge a force we voters are.
As I said, I’m an optimist so here’s how I see it:
The violent mobs we’re supposed to fear are an incoherent, disorganized, incompetent and pretty stupid group of weird, yelling men and some women, which is en masse the size and effectiveness of a flea compared to us who vote at smoothly organized polling places. The noise they make did not keep me from going to my polling place. Nobody’s noise ever will prevent me from voting.
The one area which does concern me is the horrendous amount of dark money pouring into elections, because I am uncertain how this money affects my fellow voters. I told Andrea that after a number of elections in which — thanks to John Roberts — Big Money was tossed around, I had some hope all us voters would have developed a skin thick enough to block out the money factor.
Certainly, the Democrats did during the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Several multi-billionaire candidates got nowhere pretty fast.
Which brings me to recall one of Trollope’s political novels. Trollope’s candidate for a seat in Parliament doesn’t have money himself. Still, he comes up with enough money to hire an agent who knows how to get the votes.
The way their votes are garnered and where they are sought should cause any reader to be both amused and horrified.
Of course, you all know the only Brits who could vote in the 19th Century were men with possessions, men of substance, men who owned homes. The lower financial level of these men hung out with each other in pubs, drinking a lot of ale or beer or whatever.
Votes were up for negotiation; the negotiations were held at local pubs. The pub owner was a sort of broker. And the way a candidate won votes was…to pay the pub bill. The amount paid to the pub owner, who distributed the monies among his members, was not so much negotiated as sold. The pub owner was the whip. He whipped the votes depending on how much he’d been paid. The candidate who came up with the most money — and the auction, so to speak, was in the dark and fluctuated throughout the voting period — would be handed the votes for that pub by the pub owner.
Voting has cleaned itself up quite a bit since then, hasn’t it? (Don’t you scoff!)
And I have hopes that, although big dark money can apparently buy senators, congresspeople and state officials, it can’t buy us, can’t buy our votes.
We get to choose which candidates we’ll be voting for, regardless of how much money went into their bar bills.