(Not Exactly) The Only Thing We Have to Fear

by Tom Swift

Simmering in the back — and sometimes in the front — of my mind for months now has been anxieties about the presidential election. Almost no matter the result, I fear the aftermath.

At various times I have focused my angsty energy on who the challenger would be … who the current occupant of the White House’s supporters are … what the current polls say … what calamity or obscenity or violation of the law the current occupant committed today/yesterday/this week/this pandemic. I have been beside myself over the absence of felicity by members of Congress to their oaths to the Constitution. I have lamented the lack of relationship to common standards of decency by elected leaders.

While I will not go so far as to say I no longer direct ire or a gust in such directions — to be sure, I am not that good — I have more or less settled on the following:

If the election is free and fair — if every eligible voter who wants to vote can vote — and if every vote that is cast is counted, the current occupant of the White House will not win.

– Or –

If the current occupant of the White House does, by way of free and fair election, in fact, win — if America looks at the state of things and collectively concludes that four more years of this is advised — then we will get what we deserve.

This leaves my tribulations squarely on the mechanics of the election itself.

Will the election be free and fair?

Will every eligible voter be able to cast her or his vote?

Will all votes cast be accurately counted?

Here my fears are fumbling around in the dark. And this was the case before the current occupant of the White House actively initiated steps to bring about the deleterious operations of the U.S. Postal Service for his potential political advantage ahead of an election in which mail-in voting is just commonsensical.

Given that no actual laws or common mores govern the current occupant of the White House and the party that sustains him, it leaves me thinking nearly anything is possible — that no amount of meddling in the election is off limits to one powerful person and his party, which controls one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world.

This is the paradigm: we elect our leaders.

This is the system’s grand correction: we have the chance to follow big mistakes with lesser ones.

If we do not have free and fair elections — if we cannot agree that a free and fair election has occurred — the paradigm on which our country was founded is shattered.

Americans agree on little. Bless us. But we have always agreed on the foundation of our democratic republic.

It is one thing to learn that a cause or candidate or specific piece of legislation you believe in has not or will not advance. It is another thing altogether when the principles around which your country operates comes into doubt.

Of course, I am one person. I have modest means. I have minuscule power. What can I do?

The election is, of course, for all practical purposes, outside my control.

Shall I then throw up my hands and hope for the best?

As meager as my efforts may be in the grand scheme, it seems important to focus on what I can do.

Every day I can do something. One thing at least. Whether that is learning something new about our elections or our history or whether that’s giving in some way — of my time (making a phone call, writing a letter, volunteering to serve) or money (donating to a worthy democracy-saving effort).

More than anything let me set my intention to do that, to do one thing — even if it’s a small thing — every day.