AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

According to the dictionary democracy is ” a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”

Since I wrote about the importance of voting in my last blog I was moving to a different topic this time around but I can’t seem to – I am consumed by those who are casual about this election. I just do not understand where they are coming from. We have recently watched the leader of our country who was himself stricken with Covid 19 – the virus which he said was “just going away “- make a Hollywood type departure from his three days at Walter Reed Hospital to return to the White House. While still at Walter Reed the President blithely tweeted advice to the American public – ” Don’t be afraid of Covid – I feel better than I have felt in years.” This from the man who has had the best medical care that this country can offer. And who has been on high doses of cortisone which can promote a false sense of euphoria. It was hoped that his brush with Covid would lead him to a more realistic approach to this deadly virus. It does not seem to have been the case. When Marine One returned him to the White House, the president climbed the steps to the south portico, obviously short of breath as he stood there gazing out, and proceeded to remove his mask. This was supposed to reassure the American people???

The President appears to have no concern for those around him: how his travels, his campaigning events, his social events – all of which disregard public health guidelines for containing the virus – are super spreaders for this disease. Until we get a vaccine, the most effective tools we have for curbing the virus are social distancing and mask wearing. Presently over 224 thousand people have died from the virus. Trump seems oblivious to the reality that most Americans are living.

Jerry and I have already deposited our ballots in the drop box at our local Government Center. I have no patience with attempts to paint early voting and absentee ballots as fraught with the possibility for fraud. Our experience was of organization and competence.

This is our country, our democracy. It is a prize possession and we must not value it lightly. And we must not let the core beliefs and teachings of our democracy be taken from us. I grew up accepting that the United States was the greatest country in the world but I don’t think I ever really stopped to ponder what made it so. It was my nineteen years with the Naomi Project – the mentoring program for high risk pregnant and newly parenting women that I started, directed and co- directed – that really brought home to me the meaning and the many values of a democracy. The majority of the women we worked with had sacrificed so much in leaving their native countries to come to America for a better life. Their first hand experience of poverty, mental abuse, physical abuse, social unrest , political turmoil was for me a graphic lesson on the value of a democracy.

I wanted to get actively involved in the election process earlier but health issues, the needs of some sick friends and some other commitments made that difficult. About two weeks ago I signed up for phone banking. The day before my scheduled phone banking commitment I went through a nation wide training ( over a 1000 volunteers participated) and was awed by how organized and scripted and over whelming the phone calling procedure is this time around. Four years ago when Jerry and I both made calls in the presidential race, we were handed a list of names and phone numbers, given a desk to sit at, a phone to use and encouraged to get started. The experience of going from almost no instruction to an overabundance of instruction was a bit daunting but definitely necessary. This time a phone calling tool would be making the actual calls and the job of the volunteer was to access this tool, to speak to voters and to quickly electronically record the results of the call before the phone calling device moved you on to the next call. There were about 45 seconds between calls. In this training there were so many electronic instructions. I could not help but think all these electronic instructions would be easier for Atar, our 13 year old granddaughter ! If I didn’t want to do this so badly – the present occupant of the White House must not be reelected – I would have given up.

Our son Jerry heads up his neighborhood Democratic Club in New York City. I decided to do my phone calls under the auspices of his club. There are so many opportunities for volunteering locally I was finding it very confusing. And since phone banks call various states decided on by the Democratic Party it really didn’t make much difference which phone bank I volunteered with. That turned out to be a smart decision on my part. Jerry, working with a co -captain, was heading up his clubs training. I only wish I had realized they were providing their own training. It was clear, concise and actually pretty easy to follow. After about a half hour training we started making calls. It was at times frustrating – when somehow a Republican’s name and phone number had made its way on to the only Democrats list that we were calling – but for the most part it was very rewarding. Our purpose was to stress to the Democrats we talked with the importance of this election and the value of their individual vote. If they had not already voted we urged them to make a voting plan. If they had voting questions we either answered them – if we could – or referred them on to those who would be able to do so.

Two calls stand out for me. Both of them were early voters. One was with a young man who felt so strongly about the election. He had a contagious enthusiasm for the privilege of voting. He kept thanking me for volunteering to be part of a phone bank. I wished that Gen Z members who are on the fence about voting could catch some of this young man’s enthusiasm.

The other was a with a woman who had just voted that day. She was very pleased with herself because voting lines were so long in her neighborhood but she had found a time to go when the lines were not that bad. She was sharing that information with her friends.

I will be phone banking one more time before the election. It makes me feel like I am doing something positive to preserve our democracy. As has been said, the best definition of democracy is “government by the people”. Every vote counts!!!

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