We all must choose wisely.
It is no secret, I picked a team. By now, just about all of us have. I’m with former vice president Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). I like Biden’s plan to tackle the climate crisis by increasing renewable energy and connecting solutions to environmental justice and equity. Having lived through the fight to reform health care in 2009 and 2010, I’ve warmed to Biden’s thread-the-needle strategy of strengthening the Affordable Care Act by adding a public option. I know in my bones that Biden will usher in more unity and less division; it is who he is.
For many months, I have been concerned about the direction of the country I love, and I believe Biden gives us the best chance to get back on track. If, after all the votes are counted, Biden and Harris fail, I will be disappointed, I may peacefully protest — but I will accept the result.
Maybe you picked the other team. That’s okay. But let’s agree on this: The world is full of countries where elections are predetermined, where expressing opposition views leads to imprisonment and where balloting disputes devolve into violence. It’s getting worse, too. Democracies and democratic institutions are threatened around the world, and so the United States stands at an important inflection point. Will we be Turkey or Hungary, clamping down on the very institutions that foster freedom — such as the press and the judiciary? Will we be Belarus, where citizens have had to take to the streets for months to advocate for democracy, unwilling to give in to an autocrat who jerry-rigged another election to continue his rule.
The United States, preoccupied with its own challenges, is effectively silent in these and other democratic struggles throughout the world. Our election matters for us, and it matters for the world. If we cannot get it right, how can we be the cheerleader of free and fair elections elsewhere?
In a democracy, carefully — painstakingly, thoroughly, fairly — counting the votes and determining the winner is a first principle. We need to all agree that this task is more important than who wins. Sadly, after months of the president openly attacking the levers of the election itself, I worry. President Trump spent weeks trashing mail-in and absentee ballots, sowing seeds of distrust and confusion. His man at the U.S. Postal Service has worked to erode the efficient delivery of those ballots. Republicans have been openly pursuing an election strategy of litigating practically every procedure, every ballot and every citizen who wants to vote.
Worse, Trump proclaimed a “rigged election” before the first ballots were cast. He used the forum of a presidential debate to suggest that he would not accept a peaceful transfer of power. He followed that by refusing to affirmatively denounce white nationalists, instead encouraging them to “stand back and stand by.” When his own FBI director testified that white supremacists represent our greatest domestic terrorism threat, Trump dismissed that testimony. And, in recent days, believing his best hope for victory is to receive more votes on Election Day, Trump has suggested publicly that ballots not counted on Election Day should not count.
But despite it all, I still believe in the American tradition of democracy. I believe we can conduct a free and fair election. And if record early numbers are an indicator, voters are speaking loudly — it just may take many days before we know with certainty what they are saying. We can have confidence in the election results — if we have the patience to get all the votes counted.
Isn’t that something worth waiting for? Once that happens, I am prepared to accept the results of the election even if my guy does not win. I believe most Americans — including the millions who will vote for the other guy — agree with me. But there are long hours ahead until we know for sure.