I am writing this early on the morning of Tuesday, November Second, Election Day. Although this cartoon won't appear in the paper until tomorrow, I had to file it by five o'clock Friday night. So I had to prepare scenarios for three different contingencies--of which I fear the third is by far the most likely. As I've said before, I beleve the Rebublicans are not going to let an election stand in the way of their remaining in power. They are not going to lose this election, and they don't give a shit how legitimate it looks. Already they've started challenging voters in Ohio; a friend of mine in Texas complained that she'd tried to vote for Kerry four times at an electronic voting machine and four times gotten the "no selection" message; and a friend of a friend who's monitoring polls in Florida reports that she overheard election official in a black district say on a cell phone that they had to leak word that the lines were four hours long to keep voters away from the polls. It really wouldn't surprise me if it went back to the Supreme Court and they summarily re-appointed their boy with a decision as indefensible as the one they foisted off on us in 2000. If that happens, will our half of the country just have to eat it again? Or will we have the guts to fill up buckets and garbage cans with sewage, drive them down to the Supreme Court building, and dump them on the white marble steps? Another contested election will cause half of the electorate to lose forever whatever vague, vestigial faith they might have had in the myth of democracy in America. And then what--do the Blue States secede, like the South did after the election of Lincoln? Then we can finally be a civilized country with national health care and civil liberties, like Western Europe, and the Red States can go ahead and be a third-world theocratic shithole with prayer in the schools and religious police, like Saudi Arabia? It is much easier to imagine a ring of tanks around the White House, with Arnold Swarzenegger standing on top of one like Borus Yeltsin during the attempted coup, trying to persuade the President to step down peacefully through a bullhorn than it is to imagine George Bush delivering a concession speech. When has that self-righteous little pipsqueak ever conceded anything? A lot of people I know have been nervous and preoccupied with this for weeks. It feels like there is some unknown catyclysm approaching, gradually but inexorably, apprehended dimly as if through a fog, and all we can do is sit here and wait for it to arrive. It's like Christmas Eve, except we don't know whether it'll be Santa who comes down the chimney or the Devil.
However: since yesterday I have been in Philadelphia, canvassing for MoveOn PAC. And, much as I am loath to say this out loud, much less commit it to the Internet, I have to say that my cautious optimism has become less cautious and more optimistic. Admittedly we are in a Democratic stronghold here, and my evidence is all anecdotal, but the people we've been canvassing have all been identified as likely Kerry supporters who are unlikely to vote, and I will tell you that they all seemed very likely to vote indeed. ("Are you kidding?" asked one man when I asked him if he was voting tomorrow. "I'd vote for Joe Donut over George Bush.") And the word from that friend of a friend in Florida is that the turnout is unprecedented, with lines snaking around the block, and people standing in line for hours in the rain to vote. Our wild, secret hope--the electoral map a Sea of Blue tonight--suddenly seems more tenable.
If the American people endorse George Bush's "policies" of the last four years by voting him into a second term, it'll mean that the myth of American exceptionalism, of which the Right is so fond, will finally be dead--we will be just another greedy, evil, fatassed Empire like Hitler's and Napoleon's and every other one before them, all the way back to Assyria, doomed to overextend ourselves and fall, with nothing but some good museums to show for our brief crazy time on top. But if we reject him, if we take that strutting tinpot shitwipe down, it will be the greatest moment in American democracy since George Washington refused the crown. Except that this time the President--the halfwit heir to a former ruler, unworthy to spit-shine General Washington's boots--would eagerly accept a conqueror's crown forever, and it would be we, the People, who explained to him, as though he were a child too dumb to know right from wrong, "No." We'll be able to tell our grandchildren how close it was--how they almost took democracy from us, but, at the crucial moment, we took it back.