ARLENE VIOLET – A sigh of relief with the election over?

ARLENE VIOLET – A sigh of relief with the election over?

I don’t think that I’m the only person who could not wait for this election to be over. I hope that as you read this, someone has won decisively. Otherwise, we are in for a rocky road even with a strong presidential victory, let alone a too-close-to-call result.

The seeds have been sown to distrust the ultimate verdict. The president with very little evidence undermined mail ballots. Meanwhile, voter suppression efforts were undertaken, primarily by Republicans. The Texas governor had placed one mail ballot drop-off in a primarily minority county the size of Rhode Island. Some voters there had to drive 58 miles to put the ballot in the single box. Pistol-packing mamas and poppas planned to show up at voter sites to “police the precinct,” thereby pictorially turning the home of the brave into an image of an armed dictatorship. Just the threat of doing so had a chilling effect. How did this country sink so low?

I fear a further division in the country regardless of the winner. People are marinated in venom, hating anyone who disagrees with their perception of the country and as to who should have what rights. Historians may claim that there have been other periods mirroring the partisanship we have today. I disagree. Yes, there were 10 very close elections, including Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilden (1876 Electoral College vote 185-184 after Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South which ended Reconstruction), but in all these races, partisanship may have ruled but there wasn’t contempt and scorn directed toward political adversaries. This presidential election seemed more akin to a boxing match where the opponent had to have his lights knocked out.

I suspect that challenges will now abound. The Supreme Court may again have to be dragged into the settlement of the election. I wish Judge Amy Coney Barrett wasn’t rushed through since her confirmation further politicized an institution which used to enjoy a reputation for integrity more than any branch of government.

So, much more will be at risk after Nov. 3. In the past, close elections mostly resulted in debates about the efficacy of the electoral college (five times so far the nation’s top vote getter didn’t win the election) and whether it should be abolished. This time any debate won’t be about an esoteric issue. Rather, the losing side may very well take to the streets to protest how the “election was stolen.”

2020 has been an exhausting year. COVID-19 deaths and illness have wreaked havoc. So many people still are unemployed and education of children remains remote. Food insecurity continues unabated and exacerbated by school closure. The $19 billion a year on subsidized nutrition, the second biggest anti-hunger program after food stamps, pre-COVID-19, fed 30 million students a day. Less than half of that number is being done now. Housing is threatened as people fall short of cash to pay rent and health needs grow. This adds up to the perfect formula for foment.

Politicians usually end a speech with “God bless America.” I’m ending this column that way since I think we need to be saved from ourselves. “God bless America, please,” and may I be wrong that much dissension is ahead of us!

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.