I voted last week at a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it took about 10 minutes–in and out. It was the second presidential election I’ve participated in, and it felt pretty good. It felt… final. While waiting in line, observing the calmness and decency of those around me, I was struck by this thought: All the nastiness of the past year, all the lying, the pandering, the divisiveness, the disgusting injection of corporate cash, the false accusations, the distracting proxy debates about chicken sandwiches, the gallingly hypocritical attempt to speak for “the 99 Percent,” the insulting yet ultimately meaningless disparaging of “the 47 percent,” the vilification of the wealthy, the vilification of the poor, the vilification of debate moderators, the invocation of dead presidents, the distrust of nonpartisan employment figures when they don’t align with campaign narratives, the semantics of “job creators” versus “millionaires and billionaires,” the threat of layoffs by employers if the election doesn’t turn out the way they want, the insultingly transparent attempt to suppress voters by targeting non-existent voter fraud, the gradual marginalization of moderate voices, Fox News, the conservative bewilderment at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s refusal to play presidential politics during an environmental emergency and the Democrats’ belief that such a move signaled the man’s ploy at a 2016 presidential bid and neither side’s recognition that perhaps the man actually did believe presidential politics had no place when people were dying and their homes being destroyed, the fear at the back of the mind that some people are actually dumb enough to vote for someone because they’re hot but then actually seeing evidence of it, Fox News, the infuriating stupidity of and catering to people who are still undecided the day before the election, the hatching of treasonous militias at a Waffle House in Alabama, the pandering to sci-fi nerds with the promise of moon colonies, the ignorant McCarthy-like witch-hunts against Muslims (and while we’re at it, the endemic pride in being ignorant and the belief that “smart people” shouldn’t be on your side), the readiness to believe anything regardless of fact so long as it fits with your uninformed and probably racist way of thinking, Donald fucking Trump, the equating of China with all things bad, the Birthers, the Truthers, the constant playing of the Nazi card, the belief that an attempt to provide more people with health insurance is somehow indistinguishable from national socialism, the Koch brothers, Fox News, Donald fucking Trump, the semantics of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” when no one is really “anti-life” or “anti-choice,” the GOP’s embarrassingly unscientific comments on rape but also Democrats’ unfair playing of this card as if any of these atavistic positions indicated some sort of endorsement of rape, the actually kind of funny all-male Congressional panel of self-professed women’s health experts, the Congressional brinksmanship and the refusal to get anything done until after the election while at the same time recognizing that ideologies are only likely to harden, the simplistic Taxpayer Protection Pledge drafted by Grover Norquist and signed by hundreds of members of Congress that virtually guarantees the deficit will not be resolved through increased revenue lest incumbents face the wrath of Tea Party protesters with mustard stains on their underwear, the vicious hypocrisy of certain Christian zealots who believe abortion is tantamount to genocide while at the same time advocating the confinement of gays behind some giant electric fence to die off, Donald fucking Trump, the complete absence of any sort of discussion of climate change, the reluctance I have to talk about these issues with my conservative father, the fear that gay people are the true threat to the sanctity of marriage and not high divorce rates or Kim Kardashian, the simultaneous downplaying and publicizing of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden and the president’s role in it, and Donald fucking Trump–all of that, for me, culminated in the rather innocuous casting of a ballot and the receipt of an “I Voted” sticker. It seemed, well, anti-climactic.
I wasn’t expecting fireworks to shoot out of the ballot box. I wasn’t expecting a complimentary massage or the promise of dictatorial powers for a day. I wasn’t expecting anything. But I was reminded of something: the essential imperfection of democracy and how beautiful that imperfection is.
Just think of the possibilities of a country that allows itself to be imperfect (hence, the pursuit of a more perfect union–not a perfect union), and which finds virtue in such flaws, welcoming its media blowhards with a kind of cold acceptance. Consider, for a moment, the immortal words of Sir Winston Churchill:
“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried.”
I was struck by this quote in realizing how absurd the difference is between the benign act of voting and the sensationalism of election politics. Clearly, there’s no shortage of messy bureaucracy, offensive opinions, and problems to fix, and I’m probably as tired of this election as you are. But it is beautiful–so long as the core of democracy–voting–is maintained. And the physical act of casting my ballot validated that feeling for me.