Presidential Campaign

Amid anger, Election Day is still foundation of the miracle of democracy

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Back in the 90s, my husband worked on a campaign in California’s Central Valley, that dusty land of sun-baked fields stretching as far as the eye can see. It was a small race, in a sense, for the state assembly. 

No breathless press covering every move, no grandiose promises of sweeping achievement, just a rancher who wanted to represent his neighbors in Sacramento. There were volunteers in the small, dingy office on a nondescript California backstreet, hard working Californians who came in to work the phones or walk a few blocks.

{mosads}One of them was an immigrant from El Salvador named Elena. She had fled the thirteen-year-long civil war that tore her country apart, a series of revolts, coups, massacres, and betrayals.

Settled in her new home, she came to walk a precinct for our candidate, to stuff envelopes, to put up signs, she said, because she knew what it was like to live in a country that is not free. She had longed for a chance to have a voice in the future of her country, to be able to speak her mind without fear, to determine her own destiny, to cast a vote for the man or woman she thought best qualified to serve.

And so in her new land Elena came, joyfully, to perform all the boring, thankless jobs of a political campaign because she knew the alternative.

She knew what a blessing it was to participate for a candidate she believed in, what a privilege.

America is an amazing place. It will be an amazing place tomorrow, no matter who wins the presidency.

America is a place where we believe our differences are better expressed with words than bullets, with votes than tanks. We believe every person has the right to hold his opinions, to cherish his beliefs, and to express them in the public marketplace of ideas without fear.

There has been fear in this election cycle that these freedoms are threatened, under attack. The truth is that they are always under attack. The freedom of an ordinary woman from a farm town in the middle of California to speak her mind and act on her beliefs is the very thing that makes monarchs lose sleep and dictators shudder in their palaces. If the people can speak, can decide, what will happen to the powerful?

Indeed, we’ve talked about these things over the last year, the power of elites, the emergence of speech-stifling safe spaces, the vilification of the free press. Some worry the powerful are encroaching once again, trying to silence Elena and a million like her across this land, born here or born elsewhere.

But I’m not worried. Freedom is in the DNA of Americans, woven deep into our bones. We swagger through the world and through our own country, deeply secure in our American-ness. It is something so deep we rarely stop to consider it, instinctual rather than conscious.

Who counts the cost, other than social, before posting a fiery opinion on Facebook? In Turkey, currently, a Facebook post can get you killed, if you are lucky enough to have access to Facebook at all.

Who considers the safety of their children before adding their opinion to the comments section? In Russia, expressed opinions can land you in jail. Who seriously doubts their safety before attending a political lecture? In China, there are no unsponsored political rallies. 

We’ve had a tiny taste of these dangers this election year, nastiness at some rallies, violent rhetoric, even a few violent outbursts, and we’ve screamed and argued about them, reported and recorded, warned and scolded, cajoled and carped.

What haven’t we done? Engaged in warfare.

There are no tanks on the streets of America this morning. There will be none tomorrow either, God willing. There are no mass graves full of beheaded victims as in Mosul or war-torn children as in Aleppo.

There are only people voicing their choice, exercising their right to be represented. Somewhere, I hope Elena is still doing the same.

Let us not take it for granted. Let us not let this ordinary, yearly miracle slip from our fingers. It is rare, it is precious, and it binds us into one people on November 9, together in peace, together in freedom.

Rebecca Cusey is a writer based in Washington DC. She writes about movies, TV, pop culture, politics and faith. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey.
The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill
Tags 2016 presidential election California Democrat Party Donald Trump El Salvador Election Day Exercise the franchise Gary Johnson Green Party Hillary Clinton Independent Party Iraq Iraq War Jill Stein Republican Party Syria Syrian civil war Turkey United States vote

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