<< The Body Politic

Post election analysis

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

We’ll leave the real post election analysis to the experts, but do want to point out just how incredible the act of voting is. Writing yesterday morning in The American after waiting in line in the cold to vote, AEI’s Michael R. Strain poses the excellent question: “What in the history of mankind would make you think that such a thing was possible?”

He writes:

This year my polling place was across the street from my apartment. Nice, I thought. I showed up at 6:05am wearing a pullover and no coat, expecting to be in and out. It turns out that they had five voting booths and a line that went on for blocks. There was a guy ahead of me in line wearing a gorilla suit. His vote counts the same as mine. It was 40 degrees out. An election official named Ron propped the door open just as I got inside, creating a nice wind tunnel, making it even colder indoors than out. Thanks for that, Ron. Eighty minutes later, I am back at home writing this while trying to unthaw.

Good God, I love Election Day.

Aristotle conceived of politics in a democracy as citizens gathering in the public square to collectively determine how we ought to order our life together. As is often misunderstood, however, we do not live in a democracy. We live in a republic, where the people decide who gets to make the decisions. And so every four years we have Election Day. We decide who will, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, be the decider.

It is remarkable when you think of it. Judging by the previous election, by the end of the day more than 130 million ballots will have been cast in this, our greatest civic ritual. Power will be allocated by the people: the Democrats get to have this many seats in the House, the Republicans get to have this many in the Senate. The most powerful person in the world will be selected: the president of the United States.

And this enormous, consequential, historic decision will be made by regular folks showing up in the cold  — some idiots among them not wearing coats — holding Starbucks holiday cups in their hands, complaining that they’ll be late for work, waiting to cast a ballot.

What’s most impressive is what won’t be there. There won’t be soldiers. There won’t be guns. There won’t be tanks and weapons. No jets flying overhead. There will be campaign representatives, but they won’t be strong-arming or intimidating anyone. Except for a few isolated incidents, the decision of who will hold the most powerful office in the world will be made peaceably, without threat of violence or coercion, by public action.

What in the history of mankind would make you think that such a thing was possible?

I am already on record as believing that President Obama will win re-election. But what if he doesn’t? Will he try tomorrow to secure the loyalty of the military and to deny Mitt Romney the throne? Will he try to keep the power he has by force? Of course not. This is so far outside the realm of possibility that most wouldn’t even think of it.

I ask again: What in the history of mankind would make you think that such a thing was possible?