October 31, 2020

The next three days will bring the culmination of the 2020 election season, as those of us who have not already cast our ballots will show up on Tuesday to vote in our local, state, and national elections around the country.

Lots of us are exhausted and discouraged, and after the chaos of the past four years, it seems entirely fair to be exhausted. As civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer said, we’re “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

But on this night of calm before the storm, I am the opposite of discouraged.

I am excited about our democracy and our future.

Our nation faces headwinds, for sure. We simply must get the coronavirus pandemic under control, and then address the extremes of wealth and poverty in this country. Fixing healthcare, systemic racism and sexism, climate change, and education all must be on the table as we move firmly into the twenty-first century. It sounds like a daunting list, but after years of apathy while a few wealthy Americans tightened their grip on the nation, Americans have woken up to the fact that democracy is not a spectator sport.

We are taking back our country, and once we have done so, we will find that no problem is insurmountable.

Democracy is rising. It might not win on Tuesday—no jinxing here!—but if not then, the week after that, or the month after, or the year after. After more than thirty years studying our country's history, I have come to believe in American democracy with an almost religious faith.

And then, with our country free again, the future looks wildly exciting, full of different voices, races, religions, foods, gender identities, books, ideas, inventions, music, clothing, political identities, perspectives. In the past, when we have come through a period in which a small group of Americans has taken control of our society and ordinary Americans have taken it back, industry, art, science, and civil rights have blossomed. For my part, I don’t expect to like everything that happens in such a fertile world, but I do expect to learn, and grow, and feel privileged to watch the construction of a world that reflects our people at their best.

I know it’s frightening to hear the stories of Republican leaders trying to get ballots thrown out, and right-wing thugs intimidating Biden voters, and so on. But that Republicans feel the need to engage in such tactics despite their ongoing voter suppression and gerrymandering is a tell-tale sign that they know their party has lost any hope of winning a majority of voters, and that the only way they can win an election is to cheat.

That strategy is not sustainable.

In the past year, the people who have come to these Letters to read and chat and argue and bolster each other have built a community of more than a million strong. We are artists, nurses, scholars, potters, welders, moms, dads, photographers, lawyers, writers, politicians, teachers, landscapers, boatbuilders, bankers, and doctors, people from every imaginable background, brought together by our love for this country and what it has the potential to be. So tonight, as I fall into bed, I urge you all to keep the faith.

Because, I promise, you have enabled me to keep mine.

[Photo by Peter Ralston]

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