It is Sunday night before the Tuesday 2016 elections. Finally, it is upon us. After all the campaigning, the jockeying for position, the scapegoating of obstacles in the path, and all the primaries, voter suppression against winning and losing opponents, all the lying, cheating, stealing (Mrs. Kennedy used to say a man who will lie will cheat, a man who will cheat will steal, and a man who will steal will kill), and after the conventions and all the reversals in the name of party unity, and the rush to the center in the general after the rush to the peripheries in the primaries, after all, we end here, with our minds made and our hopes high.
Despite all, in my humble opinion, we too often underestimate the strength of the ship of state (forgive my nautical reference, you know deeply that navy stuff is bred in my thinking), we have too little faith in both the electoral process and the governance process after the election. Don’t get me wrong, here, don’t get it twisted. At the foundation of the electoral college system is still and will forever be the 3/5’s proposition. But beyond the specifics, it is the fault of the politicians, again in my opinion, and their parties of henchmen and strap hangers, who go overboard in creating the appearance (some might say the illusion) that they really can make a difference, that they, in their persons, can really produce change, that they know how the sauce is made and can affect the outcome of the final taste of the stuff, above and beyond the mechanics and the workings of the political system over 200 years in the physical making, and over a much longer period in the forging of the theoretical underpinnings of democracy and democratic governance. To paraphrase my homegirl from Greensboro (you know who you are!), it is almost a type of idolatry, politicians appointing themselves as agents of change when we should all know that the agency of change is inherent in the system, in the checks and balances, in the mechanics of bureaucratic deliberation. And the system, ultimately, is the people, not the politicians. Of the people, by the people, for the people…
“Vote for me! I’ll set you free! I’ll get you jobs! And Healthcare! And Family leave! And a booming economy I will bring to you!” Gimme a break, y’all! All that is is talk and talking points, distilled and bereft of any real measurable meaning. But full of emotional appeal for the uninitiated.
The ship of state is built to weather storms. So don’t give up the ship! It matters very little who the person is giving orders to the helm, because in a storm, the first thing you lose is the ability to steer. There is propulsion, to push the ship through the storm, and there is the architecture of the ship itself. And to paraphrase my poetry friend, architecture is destiny.
Election Day, November, 1884
If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi’s stream:
—This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name—the still small voice vibrating—America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d—sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.