All in all, it could have been worse.
In fact, when I finally went to bed in the wee hours of Nov. 4, I thought that Election 2020 was turning into the same nightmare as Election 2016, when contrary to the polls Donald Trump was duly elected president of the United States.
I thought that four more years of Trump would be bad for our already bungled response to Pandemic 2020. I thought that during a second Trump term our standing in the world would continue to diminish and our relations with our allies would be further damaged. I thought four more years of Trump’s tweeting would destroy any possibility of some level of decency and civility in our discourse.
The one thing that I did not think, however, was that the Republicans had somehow rigged the elections in order to award Trump with victory.
By the next morning, things were looking better, and not just because Joe Biden’s chances were beginning to improve in some swing states. Americans had turned out to vote, both by mail and in person. There were few disruptions at polling places, and all across the nation ballots were being quietly tallied.
Over the course of the next week our nation accomplished that most democratic of exercises — a free and fair election — in the face of very challenging circumstances: an out-of-control pandemic, a political party that has done its best to keep voters away from the polls and an administration that has worked hard to throw the legitimacy of the election in doubt.
Our national pride in this accomplishment should not be diminished by the loser’s refusal to accept the election’s results. The democratic process is bigger than this president.
How bogus are Trump’s claims of voter fraud? Down here in Texas, evidence is in such short supply that our lieutenant governor has offered up to $1 million of his campaign funds to anyone who can come up with an example. None or few have responded.
But I turn to Texas to defend the legitimacy of this election, as well, in the person of my sister-in-law.
Linda is an avid liberal, but her dedication to the democratic process is much greater than her dedication to the Democratic Party. Therefore on Nov. 3 she put in a 15-hour day as an election judge in a polling precinct in her south Texas county of Victoria.
Like many thousands of poll workers who labored in thousands of precincts across the nation, Linda is of retirement age, which implies her willingness to face a certain amount of risk from the pandemic during a long day at a polling station.
Being an election judge isn’t easy. Problems came up all day long, and they had to be solved, one by one. Voters showed up at the wrong precinct. A few voters’ registrations couldn’t be verified. Some required provisional ballots. And Linda had to ask two voters to turn their Trump masks inside out to comply with electioneering law. She asked politely and firmly, and they politely complied.
That long day in Linda’s tiny precinct was duplicated thousands of times on Nov. 3. Our nation is filled with people — Democrats and Republicans — willing to do the hard, grass-roots work of democracy. The process is made inherently honest by the integrity of poll workers like these. As Linda put it in a letter to her local paper: “Widespread fraud is almost impossible in a decentralized system that requires the cooperative efforts of thousands and thousands of ordinary people.”
More than 150 million votes were cast on Nov. 3. About 130 of them passed through Linda’s polling station in south Texas. She will vouch for the validity of all of them.
What did she get for her long day’s work? Victoria County chose Trump over Biden, 68% to 30. Some vote rigging.
But it’s her work and that of thousands of other “ordinary people” that make democracy possible in our country. We must never allow their integrity to be impugned by a sore loser.
John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, lives in Georgetown, Texas, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.