Editor’s Note on Election Day

It is seven a.m. in Washington, cold and bright. The air hums with energy. The world this morning seems strangely suspended. Today has waited on the calendar, immense and immovable, as our neighbourhoods have flooded with yard signs, our polling places have swelled with crowds, the headlines have grown more dire and the post-election scenarios more nightmarish—and now we have woken up to it, democracy’s most important day. Already, there have been record levels of early turnout and youth voting. GDS students have been making calls to swing states, organizing voter registration efforts and writing about those efforts and the election in this newspaper. Those who can are voting. Many of those who can’t are walking out the door this morning to work at the polls. Millions of ballots are moving across the country—on each, a voice, an aspiration, a belief that democracy is not just a form of government, but an act, folded into an envelope on its way to the Board of Elections. This day forces the realization that “it’s just politics” means “I don’t care.” We have been told even by those who lived through World War II that no other presidential term can be compared to the last four years. If the president is reelected, what could you compare to eight of them? Tonight, as the votes are counted, democracy becomes what it is not: a spectator sport. The country gathers around the television, searching the numbers and the talking heads and the spokespeoples’ tones of voice for intimations of its future. The vigil induces a feeling of simultaneous exhaustion and ardor, of being so certain about who our next president should be and so uncertain about who it will be. Democracy is making a lot of people worried today. But it should also make us hopeful. As E.B. White wrote, “Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half the people are right more than half the time.” 

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