What to Expect When Expecting (a Contentious Election) by Chris Thompson

Sign directing voters to polling place with political signs in the background

What to Expect When Expecting (a Contentious Election)

2020 is the year that is lasting a decade. So it is only fitting that 2020, a year mired in a global pandemic, the exposure of the lethal flaws in our economy and health system, and a summer of unrest over years-long racial injustice, we have a presidential election to decide. Even more fitting is that the two main candidates not in any way palatable. We have Trump, the old white male carnival barker with a record of (alleged) sexual assault and racist business practices, or Joe Biden, the old white male carnival barker with a record of sexual creepiness and racist legislative policies. To his credit, Biden’s policies were endorsed by a lot of prominent Black leaders at the time as a way to reduce crime, but we all know how Good Intentions can lead to hell. His crime bill only hurt Black people, especially ones below a certain economic threshold. The choice for president of the United States has not looked so unappealing yet so dire in my 22 years of voting. Voting in a pandemic makes exercising my right feel a little bit more like a pioneering mission. Early and mail-in voting is more controversial than ever this year, as our current president has spread lies about the veracity of voting in such a way. This, of course, gave many states an excuse to try to curtail these methods. They found a new way to suppress Black and Brown voting, even if it also hurts disabled and homebound citizens. Based on the last for years dog whistling and dog loudspeaking he has been doing since January 20th, 2017, nothing the president does and tacitly OKs should be a surprise. He can’t even flatly disavow white supremacists when asked directly. Regardless, The election is under way. At least in New York State, we don’t have armed civilian militias (white terrorists) roaming around polling sites attempting to intimidate people. In fact, despite obstacles around the nation, 82 million people have cast their votes early. It is just a matter of if they’ll be counted now. 

I am one of the 82 million. I cast my ballot the second day that New York State opened polls for early voting. I was lucky enough to experience a 10-minute line, though I’m aware of a lot of people around the state waiting two to three hours to cast their votes. I didn’t have anyone try to intimidate me at the polls. I only got brow beaten when I was a foot too close to someone to adhere to the social distancing standards that we all should be following. Now I wait. By the end of Tuesday, November 3rd, we will know what to expect for the next 4 years…or not. There is no law that says that Presidential election results must be announced the night of the election day, and it seems unreasonable to make such a demand, especially in such a contentious election. The results of this election will determine how I will move about in the world for the next four years. Barring an upset win from the Green or Libertarian parties, It is going to be Trump or Biden. Neither option looks good. 

To be honest, my lack of enthusiasm for this election isn’t just because of my national choices, but for my lack of local choices. None of the city councilors who voted to give the Rochester Police Department a $100 million budget days after they used that money to beat, tear gas, and pepper spray peaceful protesters are up for re-election. The mayor who maintained a 6-month cover up of the murder of a man in a mental crisis, naked and suffocating in the street, is not on the ballot. The district attorney who has yet to file charges against the officers involved in this man’s murder, yet has dozens of cases against the protesters of that murder, is not up for re-election. There are perhaps two local and state seats for which I enthusiastically voted. The presidential election was a second priority. After all, it is the local officials we elect who gain prominence enough to think they deserve a national platform. Voter apathy has yielded a lot of the wrong people gaining that spotlight. 

Should Trump win this election, I am bracing myself for more division, and much more grass roots activism. We will have to protect our communities more, as no doubt the white supremacists that he winks to when he speaks will be more emboldened than ever. The last few years, I have had more threats on my safety and life than previous 10, so I should be ready for more. His policies have done nothing but cripple the fragile system we already have. 

Should Biden win this election, I know there will be a big sigh of relief from many of my friends, but we will still need to dig in our heels and continue to work for our rights. Between November and January, the lame duck Donald would still have the power to appoint more judges, write more executive orders, and foment discord in any way he sees fit. He did a lot right after his sparsely attended inauguration, and he can do it again. Even after Biden would be inaugurated, that is not a time to rest. Laws and rules are still in place from previous administrations, including Biden’s own crime bill. Were Biden to win, I just imagine having a mix of relief and dread. Something like of a person fled North to escape slavery, but they were aware that the Fugitive Slave Act is still on the books. Yes, we’ve accomplished something in our favor, but we are nowhere near out of the woods. 

I truly hope that everyone who can vote does so. Relatives up to the 20th Century died so that I could cast a ballot. I hope that the same people who turn out this year continue to turn out in those odd years, because the 2021, 2022, 2023 candidates will be the ones who shape our community more than the national leader. 

About Chris Thompson

(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog he currently writes and regularly posts on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon. Chris is also a regular contributor for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is http://www.chroniclesofnonesense.com

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