Now that democracy is officially broken, it was with some poignancy that I stumbled upon a piece of ancient history. Everyone has a box that contains their past life. It used to be a physical box with papers in it, and in mine (which still has actual papers), I stumbled across a letter yellowed with age, dated 1980 from Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. In an ill-fated career as a teenage journalist, I reported in the results of the presidential election from one of the polling places in Oil City, Pennsylvania. The envelope held a serious letter from a state official letting me know how important my duty was. As I looked at my teenage scrawl two things became clear: the Democrats had won in what is now a deeply red zone, and even when democracy worked it didn’t work well.
You see, I had a number to call to report the results. Since toll-free numbers hadn’t proliferated at that time in history, I was to make a collect call. And since I lived in Rouseville, some three or four miles away, I couldn’t get the results in immediately. On my way home, before making the collect call, it was announced that Reagan had won. The ballot results, still tucked away in my envelope, hadn’t been reported, and obviously they weren’t important. It was the first election in which I voted and I learned then that the system didn’t take all votes into account. Now that Trump is firing those who managed to testify at his impeachment Republican senators reply, “Yes, that’s good, that’s right. It’s as it should be.” Democracy is dead.
These United Orwellian States displayed their predilections long ago. I’d read 1984 about that time, before the eponymous year of the title. I’d been deputized to report on an election whose results were declared before every vote was counted, and I lived in the Eastern Time Zone. I didn’t vote in elections for several years after that. When politically conscious friends asked why not, I said “what’s the point?” You see, the reporting assignment was part of a current issues class in high school. It was to teach us how government worked. My teacher’s signature still graces the form inside. As one political party has embodied massive dereliction of duty, we limp along toward November. I don’t know if my vote will count or not, but I will be at the polls again. Anyone who believes in democracy will have to be. And perhaps, just perhaps, all the pre-planned cheating won’t work this time around. Eric Arthur Blair, it is said, died a paranoid man.