A shining city
Take a deep breath. It’s all over. All of the “I approved this message” commercials, uncomfortable discussions at barbecues and yard signs littering lawns and roadsides are a thing of the past as of today.
What may not be resolved, however, even with the election now concluded, is how we feel about our government and those who supported the opposing side.
The 2016 presidential election has perhaps been the most divisive election in our modern history. Supporters of Republican Donald Trump have called for the imprisonment of his opponent and proclaimed their distrust of the electoral process, calling the system “rigged.” Meanwhile, supporters of Democrat Hillary Clinton have bemoaned the thought of a “dangerous” Trump presidency, with many saying they would pull up stakes and move to Canada in the event of a Republican White House.
But what do such feelings say about the modern American election system?
According to Gallup polls taken in the past two weeks, more than two in three Americans (66 percent) say they are “very” or “somewhat confident” that votes will be cast and counted accurately across the country. While Americans’ current level of confidence in the accuracy of the vote is similar to the 59 percent recorded in 2008, when President Barack Obama first won the presidency, it remains lower than what they expressed from 2004 to 2007, when more than seven in 10 were “very” or “somewhat confident.”
Globally, the United States ranks 90th out of 112 countries that Gallup has asked this question in so far this year, the polling agency reported. While the percentage in America is undoubtedly low, the ranking may be slightly misleading because a number of countries with higher scores are not considered electoral democracies. But even among those that are, only Mexico (19 percent) ranks lower than the United States.
It’s disappointing to say the least that Americans don’t feel that the electoral process is fair and honest. States are increasingly opening opportunities for voters to make their voices heard through early, absentee and provisional voting periods. Some, including Maryland, are offering the opportunity to register to vote up until the week before Election Day. Despite what conspiracy theorists may declare, documented incidents of voter fraud are usual isolated and small in scale.
If you believe that the system is “rigged” to keep one party in power, keep the reality in mind. Over the past 40 years, America has elected three Republican presidents to five terms and three Democratic presidents to five terms. In the same period, we have elected six Republican Congresses, eight Democratic Congresses and six bi-partisan Congresses — with many years of party-majority Congresses opposing the president’s political party. What about those results scream “rigged” system? If anything, our history proves that we are the “shining city upon the hill” that President Ronald Reagan so often referred to in his presidency. Think about the Afghan, Chinese, Congolese, Libya, Iranian and Russian citizens who would gladly switch places with an American citizen in regards to their elections. According to the 2015 Democracy Index, only 20 countries qualify as full democracies, including America. Meanwhile, 50 countries qualify as authoritarian states due to restrictions on personal freedoms and the electoral process, including all listed above.
The United States may have its issues, but let’s remember our strong nation in the way that Reagan did.
“In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity,” he said. “And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”
That’s the America we believe in and hope you do too despite the results of the election.