Commentary: Stay Cool
Lately, the news has been full of stories about people dealing with events that are beyond their control.
Floods in Duluth, wildfires in Colorado, and a fierce, fast thunderstorm called a derecho that cut a swath from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic have all tested the will – and patience – of communities across the country.
I’ve been struck throughout these stories, however, by how these communities have come together in the wake of such challenges. Residents are publicly hailing firefighters and other public safety workers for their service, and there were thousands of stories of people in the D.C. area opening their homes to one another to help neighbors cope with a potentially deadly combination of oppressive heat and power outages.
These stories seem even more significant to me lately as an “election geek” because in many ways the field is facing a similar challenge; not a natural disaster, of course, but a rising anger and frustration – almost across the board – about just about every detail of the election process.
Of course, a lot of this is tied up with the ongoing national battle about voter ID, but it also emerges in discussions about federal-state relations, voter registration and voting technology.
As temperatures rise, I’m seeing more and more of the dialogue on all of these issues – on both sides – get sharper and more personal. Indeed, the same kind of angry invective you normally see in most blog comments is beginning to crop up in Twitter exchanges and other places like reader comments on sites like Amazon.com.
Quite simply, this isn’t good; not for the field, and not for democracy overall. There are, undoubtedly, numerous important and powerful issues that are buffeting the field right now – and how those issues are resolved will certainly contribute to the experience and outcome of this November’s election.
But when these debates arise, I hope we can find a way to conduct them – and resolve the underlying problems - by turning to one another and not against.
We must always remember that the American election system has always been the mechanism through which we enable the peaceful transfer of power between groups with different views. Those of us in the field of elections cannot preserve that role if we are contributing to the storm instead of standing strong – and together – against it, even when we disagree about the best way to do so.
Yes, temperatures are rising; and yes, it’s going to get hotter and hotter as November approaches. My plea to you is simple: stay cool.