Voting And the Politics of Fear
Pandemic Diary Entry #64
November 2, 2020
With the historically high number of people voting early across this country, it is obvious everyone wants to make sure that their vote counts and that it is, in fact, counted.
This election is highly charged for many reasons. A man in the White House that has spent months saying mail-in voting is fraudulent, despite the fact that he and much of his staff and family voted by mail. This same person stating that if he doesn’t win, the entire election is fraudulent and that he might not concede the election in November if he loses.
Cracks in the American election system have been growing wider over time with years of gerrymandering by whichever party is in power, has made a mockery of equal representation. The Electoral College which made sense in the 1770s is now so askew that representation is not spread evenly in proportion to states populations. This year there are even more draconian ways of keeping people from the ballot boxes. For example, Republican Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation that allowed for only one drop-off location in each of Texas’s 254 counties. Harris County Texas is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island and has a population of 4,092,459, making this proclamation, in the middle of a pandemic, an act vilipending his constituents.
For the past four years, we have been bombarded with messages of fear. This isn’t new, politicians have been using fear as a rallying cry for decades.
John T. Jost, Professor of Psychology and Politics at New York University produced a 2003 paper that combed through 50 years of history from 12 countries and found the fear and uncertainty are more strongly associated with conservative politics.
A study by Cambridge University opens the synopsis of a 2014 report with this sentence: The supporters of tradition and stability sometimes referred to as conservatives, do battle with the supporters of innovation and reform, sometimes referred to as liberals. Understanding this difference …is probably a prerequisite for managing political disputes, which are a source of social conflict that can lead to frustration and even bloodshed.
Fear is nothing new in politics. In the 1830s and 40’s the fear of Irish Catholics was the nail in the coffin of the Whig Party because they were pro-immigration. The Know-Nothing with its anti-immigrant stance grew to be the second-largest political party in the US as a result. It was still a part of our culture when John F. Kennedy ran as the first Catholic for President.
Then there was a slew of immigrant Italians, Slavs, and Jews that caused another wave of prejudice against immigrants and minorities in the 1920s. The Ku Klux Klan had millions of members during this period of time. The Immigration Act of 1924 essentially closed the doors of America to immigrants, this may have lowered the flames of the anti-immigration fire, but it was always burning, and now we have a conflagration.
Today we are separating children from parents, throwing them in cages, or forcing them to live in squalor on the other side of the border. We are killing people of color because they look different. And we have screaming demonic speeches at a convention saying the other party will open borders, close schools, create dangerous amnesty, and selfishly send your jobs back to China while they get rich all while defunding, dismantling and destroying America’s law enforcement. None of which is true, and while it makes great copy, it also acts as a lit match aimed at a fire.
Frank Sharry, told The Atlantic “Ten years ago, when [John] McCain and [Ted] Kennedy were working together on comprehensive immigration reform and George W. Bush supported it, I really thought this was a rational policy disagreement that was headed toward a logical compromise,” “Now I see it as deeply cultural. It’s racially charged, it’s tribalism, it’s us-versus-them”
I feel the fear has been ratcheted up so high this election season that the statement in the Cambridge study, citing bloodshed, is possible.
The Brookings Institute estimates that almost three million more firearms have been sold since March of this year than would have ordinarily been sold during these months. Half of that increase occurred in June alone.
In March, one could possibly have attribute this to fears arising from both COVID-19 and the free-falling stock market. By June, though, the concerns about the virus and the economy, while still there, were compounded by the evidence of, and protests against, racial injustice in policing, and the cries for defunding the police.
One of the more disconcerting things I learned from The Brooking Institute’s study was that states where individuals who were more likely to do an internet search for racial epithets experienced larger increases in June firearm sales, even after adjusting for the other issues that caused the prior spikes.
This increase in firearm sales and the fact that in some states it is legal to carry guns to a polling place does not bode well. This isn’t the first time in history it has been a concern.
In the 1980s a consent decree blocked the Republican National Committee from posting armed off-duty police at polling places in minority neighborhoods. The decree expired in 2017.
This toxic electoral season thus far has been peaceful, and those waiting in line have been entertained with music, performed the Cha Cha Slide to break up the boredom, and were even served pizza, let us hope this continues until the polls close, and show that American’s can be civil.
I am a firm believer in the safety of mail in ballots, despite the misinformation campaign being perpetrated. However, this year I walked my ballot to City Hall to drop it off personally. It is too late to vote by mail, so if you haven’t yet voted please, either drop your ballot in a recognized ballot drop-off box, or go to your polling place and vote in person, but please VOTE!
Tomorrow is election day, and I am amongst the many that believe we will not know the results for weeks, if not longer, but I will be happy to be proven wrong. I also believe that we are not out of the woods regarding violence in this country, even with a change in leadership. The chart above shows why, and that will be next weeks subject, but for now please VOTE.
San Francisco weather: 68 Degrees and Sunny
NYSE DOW compared to one year ago: -711
COVID cases in the US: 9,479,341
Deaths from COVID in the US: 236,509
OED word of the day: volcanello — A small volcanic cone; (also) a volcanic island.
Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 232
Reading: Eiffel’s Tower by Jill Jonnes
My Black and White Picture of the Day
Something Silly From the Internet: