Cutting our losses

By Shlomit Auciello | Nov 13, 2020

By the time this makes it to print and online, it's quite possible the election will no longer be under dispute. The final resolution of certification, electoral college votes and inauguration always takes a while.

For as long as most of us remember, the evening news or the morning paper has called the results and, unless the numbers were very close, we all accepted that verdict and moved on to discuss other matters.

In 1980, before the polls even closed in California, Walter Cronkhite declared the country for Ronald Reagan and, while I didn't doubt the ultimate outcome, I resented his assumption. People were still standing in line to vote. In the race to be the first to tell us, newscasters seemed to be saying, “Don't bother.”

On Saturday afternoon, Nov. 7, those paid to tell us what is happening, in places we are not, reached a consensus. Barring a continued focus on turmoil, Jan. 20, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will start their new jobs, and Donald Trump will turn the page on a new chapter of his life.

None of those people were my first choice. I supported Bernie Sanders for president, thinking him wise and compassionate, intelligent and humble, and unbeholden to Wall Street. It's likely Elizabeth Warren could also have done much to bring us toward a more sensible balance between the quality of lives and the price of goods, but no other candidate in this year's run came close to broad support of my hopes and ideas for this country.

I imagine those of you who think Biden and Harris are after your freedoms might feel you've lost a great deal in this election and, if it were true, you'd certainly have more to mourn than I.

We all know we've been lied to. We may not agree about who's been doing the lying, but it's pretty clear we've all been set up for some sort of disappointment. After being glued to our screens and speakers for months, it might be time to walk away from the news cycle.

There are people watching the vote count. Each party is allowed to send observers to every polling place and those not enrolled in a party, so called independents, are also entitled to a seat in the hall. I've been one of those people; more often I've been one of the folks taken on for the day to check in voters, hand out ballots or help reconcile the count when the machines won't tally.

Most towns try to keep the poll workers evenly allocated by party; when that doesn't happen it's usually due to a lack of volunteers. If your party was not in the room, it's likely because they ignored the legal deadline for asking to be there.

The rest of this process runs on a calendar familiar to those of who were paying attention in 2000. In a nutshell, each state has its own rules for choosing electors; some are chosen by parties during the primary process and allocated as a percentage of the popular vote, some are named by the Legislature, some are picked by the governor. Whether by one of these methods or by another, states have until Dec. 8 to make their choices.

On Dec. 14, the electors meet and cast their ballots. The new Congress will be sworn in next Jan. 3 and will certify the election three days later. Inauguration Day is Jan. 20.

Of course, Trump may choose to occupy the news cycle a bit longer. He has the right. I think it's time for the rest of us to step away from the constant hum of projection and analysis, to stop scrolling through the memes, and to use this moment to watch and listen in real time.

Who is Biden asking to serve in his cabinet? How is Trump responding to the will of the people, expressed through the mechanisms of the Constitution and laws he swore to uphold? How are we all responding to the rifts in our society and meeting the extraordinary needs of our time?

The name-calling and accusations have been going on far too long. No one needs to gloat or blame, to intentionally hurt others. If this was a different year and the aftermath of a different highly-divisive election, I'd invite a few extra friends to Thanksgiving, maybe seat a few more opinions and perspectives at the table.

As it is, I wonder if the nearby friends who invited me to share turkey and pie will decide to shrink the celebration down to immediate family. Christmas is coming, even for those who, like me, grew up with a different story to tell on the short nights just before the return of the sun. Maybe we can agree my difference doesn't negate your history and that the lengthening days are a blessing to us all.

I doubt there are many of us who will find everything we want wrapped in shiny paper, or in the actions of the government that will begin work two months from now. In another few years, a new crop of potential leaders will beg our attention and our votes.

Before the next campaign begins, it would be good for us to find our common ground. There's a lot to do, just to enable us to sit together at a table and share a meal. Our children are watching us and learning how grownups behave when things don't go as planned.

So, how about we just smile, under our masks and wish each other well. We've lost enough.

Shlomit Auciello is a writer, photographer and human ecologist who has lived in Midcoast Maine since 1988. Letter From Away has appeared online and in print, on and off since 1992.

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