November 8, 2022
I just got a text from a Gen Z voter in Michigan who has been in line to vote for more than an hour and predicts he will be there hours more. He has no intention of leaving.
If there is an obvious story from today with results still unknown, it is this: a new generation is picking up the torch of our democracy.
It puts me in mind of what poet Walt Whitman wrote about the momentous election of 1884. In that year the Republican Party had become so extremist that many of its members, disparagingly called “Mugwumps” by party loyalists, jumped ship to vote for a reformer, Democrat Grover Cleveland. It was a chaotic and consequential election, for it showed those Republicans who stayed with the party that they must moderate their stances or become a permanent minority.
Younger Republicans like Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, and Theodore Roosevelt of New York took notice and turned their party back toward its roots, protecting the rights of individuals rather than of corporations. By the end of the century, they had captured the imagination of the nation. Once in office, they ushered in the Progressive Era.
But on Election Day, 1884, all anyone could know was that there were currents and crosscurrents. What would come from any of them would not be clear for another decade or more. In that tense election the main point was that there was voting at all, for the right to choose our lawmakers was what made America, America.
“If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi’s stream:
—This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I'd name—the still small voice vibrating—America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d—sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.”
I am not going to say any more tonight out of concern I will mislead people with incomplete information. I do feel comfortable saying that the youth vote will be a big story going forward.
With that I am going to stop obsessively refreshing my screen and go to bed.
I’ll see you tomorrow.
To that committed Gen Z voter, thank you. This letter and poem are heartening, especially since I've not wanted to track election results until later tonight. Too much anxiety. But I heard a few snippets of very good news on NPR while running an errand, mainly dispelling the notion of a red tsunami and some likely key wins for Democrats running for the Senate in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Colorado.
My daughter is involved in the new PP Generation Action chapter at Murray State University. (Murray Kentucky). Planned Parenthood has 350 student chapters. Here's hoping