1,456 days since the last presidential election and millions of new anxiety disorder diagnoses later, we have finally reached the point of no return. Between a record number of mail-in ballots due to Covid-19, and overt voter suppression due to Republicans, it’s possible but unlikely we will have a certified winner when we go to sleep tonight. Tempting as it is to let these realities fuel an internal fire of depression, fear, and doubt, I’m trying an alternate route; knowing that November also means Thanksgiving is around the corner, I thought I’d look at the national holiday we should have in the context of the one we do.
Here are 10 things I’m thankful for this election day:
10) I’m thankful that, if Trump wins, we won’t have to live with a misplaced belief that our national experiment is salvageable. Some say ignorance is bliss, but I say rip off the bandaid — this election is going to show us who we truly are, one way or the other, and those are the results I’m most eager to see.
9) I’m thankful for our nation’s collective awakening these past four years. The exact numbers are yet to be determined, but we’re on track to have the highest voter turnout in generations — particularly amongst younger Americans. It’s only the first step, but it means we’re beginning to understand how much more we deserve from the elected officials who claim to represent us.
8) I’m thankful we can finally be done glamorizing The Lincoln Project and Republicans like George W. Bush. Nice that these men and women have been able to capitalize on our national instability despite being integral in building the Republican Party that gave us Trump, but I’m thankful we can go back to acknowledging that these are the key players who gave us the Patriot Act, Iraq War, Great Recession, and much more. Forget our ‘the enemy of my enemy is my ally’ rationale, we need to return to a reality where their atrocities remain unforgivable. If they make even a slight contribution to a Trump loss? Great. Should they be celebrated? No. Collect your checks and disappear into shameful obscurity like you should have done years ago.
7) I’m thankful for Bernie Sanders. When the history is written, a 3 term senator, 16 year congressman from Vermont and a two-time Democratic Party candidate (who was never the nominee) will have had more impact on the future of the Democratic Party than almost anyone. Look to the party platform and its roster of rising stars, all intently focused on universal healthcare, income inequality, and money in politics. Critics will say he ushered the party towards socialism and away from political power, but the truth is he has inspired an entire generation of voters who, through him, heard their concerns articulated in a way they never imagined possible.
6) I’m thankful this might be the year we agree our electoral and voting process is an embarrassment. Neither side is happy. Republicans want to make sure voting is done “legally” and that we know the results on election night. Democrats want all votes to be counted and for anyone, regardless of where they live to be able to cast a ballot. Democrats have won the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 elections and have won the presidency in just 4 of of those instances. Whether you say the system is broken or that it’s working exactly as it was intended, the inescapable truth is that it needs to be reimagined and completely rebuilt.
5) I’m thankful that Kamala Harris is the vice presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. No single voting bloc has shown up more consistently and reliably for the Democratic Party than black women despite little to no representation or acknowledgement of their diverse areas of concern. You may say it’s a hollow and symbolic gesture — and I certainly don’t mean to imply that simply having a black female nominee is the end goal for black female voters — but to discount its significance is to underestimate the importance it will have. Representation matters, and she’s proven herself to be more than open to areas of broad progressive change.
4) I’m thankful I got to vote. It took nearly 3 hours between 2 polling places and 75 blocks to make it happen, but it was my first time voting in person and I’ll never forget it. My experience isn’t out of the ordinary — in fact it’s much less trying than many — so I’m especially thankful to all of you who have been willing to brave the elements, take time off work, and fight against structural discrimination to make sure your voice is heard. We’re often told to never take for granted the right to vote because of those who dedicated and gave their lives for that right; and you honor their memory with your resilience.
3) I’m thankful Joe Biden is the Democratic Party nominee. There I said it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he is my idealogical champion and I have my fair share of issues with many of his positions over a long, long history of public service, but I’m thankful to have him as our nominee and I’d feel comfortable with him in the White House. Who is better than Joe Biden to put a magnifying glass towards the hypocrisy, hysteria, and bad faith power hunger of today’s Republican Party? The same man many conservatives gushed over just a few years ago as an admired friend and colleague is now a socialist puppet? Joe Biden will encourage violent protest and anarchy to achieve grassroots change? Joe Biden? It’s all I can do to keep from laughing. He wasn’t the first choice for many of us but neither was Trump for plenty of Republicans, and they started a cult for him. You never know.
2) I’m thankful for all the role models who have helped shape my political and moral belief system. For all my wonderful teachers who emphasized hard work and the importance of volunteerism, always putting others before themselves. Teachers who treated me, and all their students, with respect and who stressed leadership through action and not just words. Most of all, for my parents. Like most of us, I know I can always be doing more to advance the issues I’m passionate about, but my mom and dad taught me you don’t have to be an activist to speak up and speak out on the issues you care about. Politics is about priorities and choices and no one has had a bigger impact on my understanding of these pillars than my parents.
1) I’m thankful this could really be it. Polling has errors and we’ve been traumatized into pessimism as a defense mechanism, but we may be able to look back at this day as the beginning of a long and much needed road to recovery. No matter the outcome, we have so much work to do — as a society — to return to a place of functional cohesion. We can’t see into the future; maybe Joe Biden will be the president to lead us out of this destructive cycle, maybe he won’t. But to try and reframe what has become a common metaphor — when your house is on fire and the fireman with the hose isn’t trying to extinguish the fire, but is instead using the hose as a fan to make the flames bigger, while also lecturing you about how much worse the fire would be if his fellow fireman was in charge — you turn to the other fireman. Even if all he gets is your garden hose, at least now you stand a fighting chance.