Mail-in or polling place voting? The choice carries both political and a-political messages

As the election results came in, I was initially anxious.

After a while, though, I found my mood shifting to the way I watch a football game — a very very very long game with many many many overtime periods. That is, while what goes on in the first three quarters can be exciting and/or alarming, it’s only the last quarter that’s definitive.

It was in football mode Tuesday night when I had a perception: this election separated us voters into two camps beyond the Trump-Biden voting divisions.

As anyone who watched the returns knows, we first got the votes from in-person polling places; they came in for Trump. Then, the mail-in ballots started to be counted.

Separately, at some point in the past few days, I heard two interesting news items. First, Trump’s rallies have been followed by spikes in COVID. Then, as the results were being counted, it appeared that Trump had increased his 2016 lead in districts which are now COVID hot spots.

So the pandemic has indeed had a great effect on this election. On one hand, the effect is perverse, and on the other hand, positive.

We know that Trump supporters have defied all experts, i.e., epidemiological and medical advice about protecting ourselves from the virus. They gather in large, close groups, they refuse to wear masks and, we can presume, they don’t wash their hands thoroughly and frequently.

And when Trump told them not to vote by mail, not to trust the mail, they didn’t. They went to their polling places and voted in person. Now those people are sickening in large numbers.

But those of us who trusted the experts, protected ourselves during this pandemic by relinquishing — at least for now — the pleasures of the voting booth. We trusted the Post Office and voted by mail, albeit early.

And as those mail-in votes started to be counted and came in overwhelmingly for Democrats, it seemed pretty clear that the country is not simply divided into Trump cultists and Democratic voters, but into people who trust in the word of an idol, and those of us who trust in factual information from experts.

A few days ago, I wrote about how disheartening it has been to see the numbers for Trump, a creature who has driven our country into a scary hiatus from reality. As I told my sister last night, it’s as if half the country has been affected by a mass psychosis.

Now, with the votes for Trump coinciding with “libertarian” cries, and COVID hot spots, I think I’m going to repeat what I wrote previously: these people may be suffering from temporary insanity, but they are certainly stupid. Moreover, they’re voting not simply against their own interests but in defiance of them.

Memo to self: must re-read Thomas Frank’s What’s The Matter With Kansas?

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