Getting through this election, and beyond
I write this a day before Election Day. It will go to press the day after.
There are three possible outcomes: Trump wins, Clinton wins, or we have a contested election. That last one is in my opinion the worst possibility.
We’ve been here before, during the Florida recount of the Bush-Gore election of 2000.
I was living in Poland at the time and one of the few English-language news channels I could get was the BBC, which gave me the interesting perspective of seeing the news from my country reported from another country.
I remember the Beeb showed a video of a polling station in Florida with a line of yellow police tape around it and a newsreader announcing with glee, “Looking more like a banana republic than the world’s greatest democracy…”
What occurred to me at the time was that in their joy at finding something to criticize about the U.S. (a very common reaction in the European press by the way) they had completely missed the point that it was a line of flimsy plastic tape protecting this site crucial to the election. Not a line of heavily armed men, as would have been the case in a great many countries, and not just repressive tyrannies either.
An expat colleague of mine said, “Hey, we’ll get through this like we always do.”
I wish I shared her optimism now.
There are already mutterings of a stolen election. On the right people talk about fraudulent votes from ineligible voters, people voting multiple times, the graveyard vote, and rigged machines.
On the left they accuse the right of supporting voter identification and periodic purging of the voter rolls as a method of suppressing minority votes.
I have my own opinions about which of these charges are likely, and how significant they might be. My opinions don’t matter though. What matters is what people believe the day after the election.
If a critical number of people are sure the election was stolen, belief in the legitimacy of the government may collapse with consequences we cannot foresee, but are sure to be bad.
If the issue doesn’t arise in this election, it is nonetheless not going away.
Unless we can reach an agreement that satisfies both sides as to the integrity of the electoral process.
So here is my question for both sides.
What would you agree on to satisfy the objections of the other side?
For the left: What would you agree to, to satisfy the suspicions of the right, however unfounded you believe them to be, that ballot boxes are not being stuffed with fraudulent votes?
For the right: What would you agree to, to satisfy the suspicions on the left, however unfounded you believe them to be, that eligible voters are not being disenfranchised?
And please keep in mind, if you dismiss the question as I’ve heard some do already, the other side can justly conclude you are not acting in good faith.