By Leah S. Abrams
It is a grey, wet Sunday here in New York City, making yesterday’s crisp sunshine break in these now many days of steady rain feel like even more of a gift.
Central Park yesterday was full of small groups of children of every age in costumes ranging from traditional witch and princess, the latter being a strangely persistent fascination among hordes of youth, to a bunch of inflatable dinosaurs and cartoon characters. On the streets of every neighborhood, businesses still gave out candy and dogs were paraded about as pumpkins and pandas. Gourds and plastic skeletons and cotton spider webs adorned brownstones and storefronts alike. A sense of collective gratitude permeated our distanced silos.
Beneath, or perhaps fueling that grateful, joyful energy was the underlying tension that is the only topic of even passing small talk these days: Tuesday’s election.
Despite my vehement opposition to Ronald Reagan as President, as California Governor before that, and even as second-rate Hollywood actor before it all became “The Make America Great Show,” I was too young then to know what that election meant, to understand that the country was choosing to move from a direction of compassion and unity and more fairness to selling its soul to the devil, cloaked in an increasingly unrecognizable Republican Party from that which I’d respected and even agreed with on various points at times in history. So, for me, 2016 was what I imagine those who saw the beginning of the unraveling in 1980 likely experienced, that “we told you – it can happen here” moment.
What did give me pause as a child and still does today is the fact that not every eligible voter in the country casts a vote. This was unheard of in my family where politics and business and world affairs dominated the nightly dinner table conversation, where it was abundantly clear that our people – and here I mean Jews, not women – had been persecuted and denied our voice throughout history. You turned eighteen in my family and you registered to vote, and then you voted – not every four years, but every time an election is held where you’re living.
That is my lived experience. It is not necessary yours or your neighbor’s or your uncle’s. Surely, though, what we all share is so much more than the divergent details of our own unique particulars. I’ve never encountered a human who did not want to be heard, to feel that their opinion, their story mattered. In a democracy, we get to have that – it’s why so many people who came before us fought and died for the right to vote.
Here is a truth for everyone, myself included, who bemoans the electoral college system: if every single one of us with the right to vote exercised that right, the electoral college would always support the popular vote. It’s the most basic of math – even I can grasp it.
I think we all want more autumn days to praise the sun and the changing colors of the trees and the magic of smiling at strangers beneath the masks we happily sport in a communal health effort that the germaphobes among us hope will be a permanent, post-pandemic norm. Even in the miserable rain, the early voting lines have wrapped around the block. Despite all my disdain for human arrogance and, often, for the species at large, I do believe, buried somewhere deep in the recesses of my being, that there are fewer of us who support the trajectory of the last four years than those who say they want to make America great again while actually meaning they want to tear down the whole of society because it makes for more climactic reality television.
There is one way to communicate our shared desire for a better country: overwhelm the ballot box with 100% voter participation.