“This is the worst-case scenario, my friends. Don’t take anything for granted. Yes, you are voting. But they are not trying to win an election anymore. Those words should chill you, to your very bones. Because the truth is that more often than not — coups succeed.” —Umair Haque
I’m dedicating today’s post, published on October 30, 2020, to voting. The United States’ 2020 election, which includes a presidential election, is November 3, 2020. It’s not a coincidence I’m sharing a cocktail recipe on this Friday before Election Day. We’re gonna need it. Beyond that, I believe we all need to write out our voting experience this year, to leave a record for history and posterity, as it is highly likely to be a stolen election, an authoritarian coup that succumbs to a constitutional crisis the likes of which America has never witnessed. It’s quite possible your vote will be lost in the mail, tossed out for fabricated reasons, or hacked. We need to leave a record, that the majority of us didn’t want this and are trying to reject it with every cell in our bodies.
Here is my story. I live in New Jersey. Thanks to a raging pandemic our installed, autocratic president could have controlled but actively chose not to, in-person voting now has the added danger of viral contagiousness. So New Jersey became, for the first time ever, a vote-by-mail state. I hope they stay this way.
Every registered voter – and obtaining your voter registration is super easy here – was mailed a ballot in late September/early October. Due to the dangers of mailed ballots being lost or “lost” – another horror unique to 2020 – NJ Governor Phil Murphy designated ballot drop boxes in every county. Larger and more densely populated counties have multiple drop boxes. They are under 24/7 surveillance.
Mr. Wallace and I received our ballots when expected. We took about a week to research some of the people and issues on which we are being asked to vote. Obviously we knew who was getting our vote for President and Senator. Kamala Harris and that guy on her ticket. Cory Booker. Sure. But we were less familiar with the down ballot races, and NJ always puts initiatives on their ballots, those Yes/No questions put to a majority vote.
We are, as of 2018, suburban homeowners in a smallish but population dense suburb where the vast majority of children in our town attend the public schools. We have no charter schools in our district (that was important to us in choosing where to buy a home). Obviously, the school district’s importance and influence are quite large. But, we are not teachers, nor do we have a child in the public school district. So we took the time to chat up our neighbors who do and research the policy positions of the people running for School Board. We felt it important to not just fill in whoever or leave it blank because it doesn’t directly affect us. We found a consensus on the most progressive candidates and voted accordingly.
NJ has three ballot initiatives this year, the first of which is legalization of marijuana for ages 21 and over. I voted YES! That was exciting!
NJ has odd-number year state races, so we aren’t voting for the governor or state legislature again until 2021. That leaves the House of Representatives. Our incumbent rep, running for reelection, is Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. He’s a Democrat, and I’d say he’s… fine. Could be better, could be worse. NJ isn’t gerrymandered, and we’re in a very blue district. That we’ll stay repped by a Democrat is not in question. The wrinkle this year is that a progressive, Akil Khalfani, is challenging him as an Independent. And this is where Mr. Wallace and I diverged in our votes. He voted for Khalfani, as he felt progressiveness was most important. I voted for Rep Payne, even though I’m very progressive. I questioned Khalfani’s political instincts to not primary Payne. Rep Payne is not the worst Democrat in Congress, so it’s understandable that groups like Justice Democrats wouldn’t prioritize him over, say, Dan Lipinski, or Henry Cuellar, or Elliot Engle, or William Lacy Clay. But he’s the epitome of a ho-hum, nepotistic, somewhat centrist warm body that could stand to be replaced by a young progressive with skin in the game. A quality challenger could get the attention of the progressive wing of the Party, which would provide necessary infrastructure. I don’t know why Khalfani would leave that on the table. It makes me question his judgment, so I voted for Payne. Tomato, tomahto? Reasonable minds can differ.
So on Saturday, about three weeks ago, we filled out our ballots in black ink, carefully reading and rereading the instructions, then sealed them up, masked up, and dropped them at our nearest ballot box, not more than a quarter mile from our home. Out of paranoia, we each dropped off our ballot, one at a time. I sat in the idling car while Mr. Wallace put his ballot in the slot, then after he returned to the car I got out and did the same. About a week and a half later, we each received a postcard saying our ballots had been received. Smooth and easy. My only complaint is the lack of stickers. Even when we used to vote in person, New Jersey is a stickerless state. Total bullshit.
This week early voting began in Pennsylvania and New York. My heart is breaking watching the rampant voter suppression and intimidation tactics from both the Philly and NYC police departments. People waiting in line for up to four hours. I sit here in my cozy little vote-by-mail cocoon, sandwiched in between my bookend cities, anguished at what my fellow citizens must endure just to vote. I think I’m feeling something akin to survivor’s guilt. It doesn’t have to be this way. New Jersey – and they are hardly alone in making voting so easy – is proof.
That’s my story. I performed my civic duty, I voted against Trump, in my small state that has no electoral significance (yes, I’m staunchly in favor of abolishing the Electoral College). Now we clench and grit and march our way to the other side. But hey, at least we might get legal weed out of this mess?
Rosemary Maple Bourbon Sours
- 1 large sprig of rosemary, plus 2 small sprigs for garnish
- 3 shots bourbon
- 1 ½ shots fresh lemon juice
- ¾ shot dark maple syrup
- 2 lemon slices, for garnish
- Crush the large sprig of rosemary in your hand and add it to a cocktail shaker. Add the bourbon, lemon juice, and maple syrup. Add ice to above the level of liquid and shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
- Place large ice cubes into 2 rocks glasses, then strain the cocktail evenly into the glasses. Garnish with the lemon slices and remaining small rosemary sprigs. Serve immediately.