Stephen Gottlieb: Election Night Rag | WAMC

Stephen Gottlieb: Election Night Rag

Nov 3, 2020

Depending on where you live, there are a few hours left to vote. If you haven’t, it would be an excellent use of your time.

The results of that vote, and whether it’s respected, will determine what we’ll talk about tomorrow. I’ve written letters and gotten on phone banks to encourage people to vote, some with nonpartisan organizations. Now what?

With so much on our minds, I feel like the clergyman who asked at a friend’s wedding whether anyone remembered what the preacher said at their weddings.  We need some cheer.

Wanda Fischer on Hudson River Sampler played two wonderful songs about voting: Schooner Fare’s We the people sings out good news: “We, the people, will be heard.” Then Wanda played Steve Goodman’s Election Year Rag which got you “Jump[ing] on that old bandwagon,” after stopping by “the Precinct Captain's house … [to] scarf up some lame duck stew.” Oh my, do I love that lame duck stew!

To paraphrase one of my favorites: We’ve a ballot to hammer out justice, ring out freedom, and sing about the love between our brothers and our sisters, all over this land. The land,  as Woody Guthrie told us, is “your land, … my land, made for you and me.”

Let this be a night for singing the songs of freedom, of the people’s rights to vote, that celebrate America’s contribution to the freedom of people everywhere.

All I want is a government that does what we can’t do for ourselves. We can see a doctor but our doctor can’t stop the pandemic from spreading. To stop it for anyone, we must stop it for everyone, lest others, essential workers, minorities, other decent people, will continue spreading it because none of us is an island. We need a government that protects public health.

I want government to improve the economy for all of us. With decent jobs that support our families, we’re not at each other’s throats as some of us have been. If we’re all at work, life will be safer for everyone. And if we’re all at work, we’ll be sharing the work that makes life better for everyone.

I want government to take seriously the threat of foul air and water to our lungs, the climate, and the floods, droughts and forest fires many already struggle to survive.

I want a world where people of all backgrounds are perfectly safe when stopped by policemen, when the old movie mantra of bringing people in dead or alive is confined to the movies.

I want government to protect us from all terrorism, where white nationalist terrorism isn’t protected – we are.

I want government to protect us from all foreign threats, bounties on our soldiers, sabotage of our computers, fraud on the internet, or election disinformation.

I want government to honor and protect conscientious, nonpartisan employees who follow the law as servants of the public, not campaign staff for presidents of either party, and an attorney general who protects America against lawbreakers high and low.

I want a government which protects voters rights to vote, rather than tossing ballots from people who followed the law as it was when they voted, a government that respects bipartisan honesty and fairness of the election system.

I’m guessing you do too. The best thing you can do right now is to vote.

Steve Gottlieb’s latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran.

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