Some Random Thoughts on Another Election Day in the U.S.A.
It’s November 3, 2020, another major election day in America. This day comes around every four years; every four years, on the first Tuesday of November, we, American citizens, elect our president and some members of our Congress. (Senators serve for six years.) This is probably the most tense election day I can remember, although I remember others that were also tense. But there are new elements of tension today and leading up to today. And no doubt, whoever wins, some of these tensions with remain afterwards.
My first memory of a presidential election is of the televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon. Nixon, of course, had served as vice president under Eisenhower for eight years. He was a well-known politician tainted by hints of scandal. Kennedy was a U.S. senator, young, attractive, very chic and very personable. But he was Roman Catholic; no Catholic had ever been elected president of the U.S.
I watched the debate with my parents in our living room. We didn’t own a television (for religious reasons) so I assume we borrowed or rented one. Back in those days it was easy and common to rent a television. It was, of course, black and white and very grainy. Even so, I could easily see the dark shadow on Nixon’s face, the later much talked-about “five o’clock shadow” that made him look a bit scary. Nixon was tense; Kennedy was relaxed. I clearly remember that at one point in the debate Nixon said into the camera “What we need to do is get rid of the farmers! Uh, I mean get rid of the farm surpluses.” We all laughed, but my parents were frightened by his poor performance because they were very frightened of Kennedy. My stepmother swore that if Kennedy became president there would never be another Protestant president and the pope would run the country. Many conservative Protestants felt the same way.
Kennedy won. Life went on. You know the rest of the story.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
I remember the Johnson versus Goldwater campaign and election and how tense that was. I well recall the television commercials for Goldwater that said “In your heart you know he’s right” and the ones for Johnson that showed a little girl picking flowers with her head turned slightly to see a mushroom cloud (nuclear explosion) behind her. The caption contained a quote from Goldwater: “Extremism in the cause of liberty is no vice.” I saw that on a friend’s family’s television. My parents saw it also. Back in those days people often gathered at others’ houses to watch television, play games, talk.
Johnson won, the Vietnam War proceeded badly, I worried about being drafted and sent to Vietnam. It didn’t happen.
Then came the horrible presidential campaign and election of 1968 with rioting in Chicago during the Democratic Party Convention. If people think 2020 has been strange, they probably didn’t live through 1968! There was rioting all over the U.S. Also assassinations of prominent people.
Then came Watergate and Nixon’s resignation. A huge sigh of relief went up with the end of the Vietnam War and the succession of Gerald Ford to the presidency—the only man to serve as U.S. president never elected to office as either president or vice president.
Then, later, came the shocking election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency. He was a movie star who became governor of California and was famous for being a fiscal conservative—in a fairly extreme way. As governor of California he had abolished tuition free higher education and as president he abolished free higher education for veterans—which all veterans considered an entitlement. Reagan’s victory over Jimmy Carter wasn’t a total surprise but a great shock to many people.
The following presidential elections weren’t especially tense—up until George W. Bush’s second election in which the Supreme Court had to decide that he would get Florida’s electoral college votes instead of them going to his opponent Vice President Al Gore.
Obama’s victory was surprising to many people and especially his victory over popular Republican senator McCain. Most people chalked that up to McCain’s unwise choice of running mate.
So, I have lived through very tense presidential elections before but never any one where an incumbent president threatened not to concede should he lose the election and where serious people talked seriously about the possibility of a sitting president refusing to vacate the White House should he lose the election. And I have never, in my lifetime, heard rumors of riots and civil unrest should the sitting president lose the election. So this is a new one for me. And it’s very unsettling.
I am asking myself what has gone wrong in America—that we have thugs attacking people campaigning for their candidate’s opponent? I have never before seen or heard of such viciousness during presidential debates as during this 2020 presidential campaign. There is something “in the air” that is deeply disturbing, some popular and widespread hatred of fellow Americans only for legitimate, mainstream political opinions and loyalties.
I very much want to see and hear Christian and other religious leaders calling on everyone to take a deep breath, step back, reflect on the civility that is required for democracy to work, and especially pray for God’s mercy on us all, to quell our fears and calm our passions.
*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined).