After a long journey we’ve finally come to the penultimate day of the election. There’s nothing left for me to say that hasn’t been said by countless voices during the past two and a half years.
This election reminds me of Otto von Bismarck’s quote: “Laws are like sausage, it’s better not to see them being made.” The soon-to-be-completed campaign makes me think of sausage. Incredible sums of money have poured into the campaign grinder, nasty things have been said on both sides and yet, the end product will be a symbol we can hold up to the world’s huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Come January 20, there’ll be a parade down Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues, a celebration led by the American military. But none of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in those formations will have had anything more to do with the selection of our new president than you or I.
And to me that’s the greatest beauty of America.
What do I mean by that? We’ve had 43 presidents in the last 232 years, but our government hasn’t changed. Every four years since 1786 when our fledgling republic chose George Washington as its first president, we’ve selected a new leader and we’ve done it peacefully.
Name me another country that has, over more than two centuries, moved from one leader to the next every 5.3 years on average without a shot being fired? No matter what happens tomorrow, we can sleep safely Tuesday knowing we’ll wake up Wednesday with the same government we had the day before.
We’ll have a new leader of the executive branch, and several new members of Congress, but the same government. A government that could use a few tweaks here and there, but overall one I’d choose over any other.
And, finally, for those of you thinking this has been a nasty election, I direct you to the 1824 contest between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Jackson won the popular vote and, unlike a certain candidate in 2000, he also won in the Electoral College. But, because there were four candidates, he didn’t have a majority.
So the vote went to the House where Henry Clay, who came in fourth place in the election, was the Speaker. The House voted for JQA on the first ballot… and Clay became Secretary of State.
Jackson was, history tells us, more than a little annoyed at the outcome. But don’t worry, he came back to easily beat JQA four years later.
Whoever wins tomorrow should remember what JQA’s dad told him after his defeat of Jackson. John Adams, our second president, said this to his son: No man who’d ever been president would ever congratulate another on winning the office.
Vote early. Vote often (kidding about the second part, I grew up in Chicago).