Niagara Falls is a wonder of the world in part because when staring at its vast, churning expanse, what comes to mind is: I wouldn’t want to be swept over those falls. Welcome to the 2020 presidential election. Some 120 million voters are in the same boat, heading for a political crackup on Nov. 3. But hey, we don’t arrive at the top of the falls for two months. Why worry?
On Tuesday, this newspaper’s opinion columns carried a bracing editorial—“Will Courts Pick the Next President?”—on the impending mail-in voting fiasco. Read it and weep. The gist of the situation is that some states, oblivious to the laws of postal-delivery gravity, are allowing ballots to be put in the mail just days before Nov. 3. They may or may not show up by Election Day, but so what?
Postal service experts have warned of the risks of mailing ballots within seven days of Nov. 3. But hardly anyone is listening to them. Amid the maelstrom of state voting procedures, lawsuits are being filed to challenge existing deadlines. A federal judge told Georgia that if a ballot is postmarked before Election Day, it has to be counted whenever it shows up.
In Pennsylvania, some officials want ballots counted even if a postmark is missing. State election officials are going to eyeball signatures on mailed ballots to see if they match what’s on file. Close doesn’t count only in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Ohio’s League of (Democratic) Women Voters is already challenging the verification process. A long two months remain to throw other legal monkey wrenches into what’s left of the election system.
But here’s the really dynamite mail-in metric: Polling done by The Wall Street Journal suggests 66% of Trump voters plan to vote in person, but nearly 75% of Biden voters say they’ll mail it in. Arguably, we are going to have parallel elections for the same office. Not even close to arguable is that both Donald Trump and Joe Biden will claim each won his election. Dueling inaugurations, anyone? Portland’s permanent political street-fighting could be coming to a neighborhood near you.
The excuse for rolling the election helplessly onto the rocks is, of course . . . the pandemic.
It’s worth noting how much of essential America is being subsumed beneath the pandemic’s unchanging conventional wisdom.
Schools, universities, urban economies, industries and now a national election must stumble forward as if nothing we know about the virus’s virulence or transmission has changed since March. At institution after institution, leadership has ceded decision-making responsibility to an amorphous power called “science.” That statement requires an apology to the scientists who world-wide have been conducting debate and discussion about the virus’s threat today versus the need to resume normal human life.
Are we really going to allow a national political crisis caused by a demonstrably flawed voting system to just, you know, sort of happen? A half year on, the pandemic has short-circuited independent or helpful input from much of the nation’s leadership on protecting the election.
Several reasons may explain the national outbreak of nonfeasance.
One is “Trump.” After marinating for three years in antipathy for “Trump,” many elites—in business, academia and the media—are willing to let the system rip to get rid of him. In turn, he’s happy to oblige the rancor. In the Cold War, this was called mutual assured destruction.
More intriguing is how racial issues that emerged after May 25 have suppressed normal political instincts and comment. The idea of Black Lives Matter has become a kind of alternative reality in which racialism informs everything, starting with that long list of torn-down monuments to such notorious racists as Ulysses S. Grant.
This presidential election was going to be difficult enough without the new element of racially motivated mob rage and one major party locked up over its historic ties to the civil-rights movement and the current movement’s street protests and violence. The BLM goal is to conform opinion. The result is that people who normally would speak up no longer do—about anything.
Last month, Seattle’s Police Chief Carmen Best, a black woman, was forced to resign. This week, Rochester, N.Y., Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, also black, resigned with a bitter statement: “As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character.”
Their careers, a testament to racial advancement, are collateral damage, tossed away in a day without defense from anyone. The complexities of their jobs aren’t discussable. Instead, liberals and many others—in and out of politics—hide behind the virtue of the moment, intimidated by social media and the social-justice sentiments of millennials.
Between the pandemic and protests, we have fallen into a culture of silence this year. Now it looks as if we will nonchalantly let the mail-in vote mess float a presidential election over the falls into a political crisis. Stock up on water wings.
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