Election Day in America. Lucky Us.

Today is Election Day in America and we should be grateful for how fortunate we are. We get to elect our leaders and our votes are counted honestly and competently (almost always) and if an incumbent loses he or she actually leaves the office. This sort of thing hasn’t happened all that many times in human history and doesn’t happen to this day in many places We get to take it for granted.

I thought about this yesterday after completing an interview with a Russian TV reporter in Boston to cover the presidential election. The reporter and I were chatting and she said that when she mentioned her assignment to many Russians they couldn’t understand why she would travel all this way to cover an election — why, all elections are predetermined by the party in power so there is no sense in covering them as if the impossible might happen! But she realized that her assignment was not a futile one; in America the unexpected often occurs. “Dewey Defeats Truman,” I told her. You can look it up.

After the interview I taught my Massachusetts Politics class and we got to talking about John Adams. I told them if you think the 2012 election is rough you need to read up on the campaign of 1800, when President Adams was defeated by challenger Thomas Jefferson. Now that was a bitter campaign. When it was over and the Federalist incumbent Adams had been beaten by the Democratic-Republican Jefferson an extraordinary thing happened. Adams got on his horse and rode home to Braintree. He didn’t mobilize the military and stay in power. A peaceful transition from one party to another (and hated rival party). Amazing.

In the evening I heard part of the rebroadcast of Monday’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook on WBUR. Guest David Denby, film critic for The New Yorker, was on to lambaste  the state of  American movie making. But Denby insisted he start with praise for a few movies, and he started with the new Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln. This isn’t that vampire hunter crap but a serious examination by a great movie maker with the title role played by Daniel Day-Lewis. The screenplay was written by Tony Kushner, who Denby considers the best living American playwright. It seems fitting to me, as Lincoln was our greatest presidential writer (sorry, Thomas Jefferson, I prefer Lincoln). And Denby said the job was rightfully in Kushner’s hands because in Lincoln’s time all there was to work with was words; words were everything. No TV ads, thank heaven; just words.

Finally, not to ignore the Romney and Obama campaigns but I’ve spent much more time on Senator Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. So thanks to those two candidates, who represent the best their parties have to offer. Thanks to the staffs who have worked so hard for well over a year. And thanks especially to all the volunteers for both candidates who believe so ardently in the righteousness of their cause and whose efforts enrich and ennoble our democracy.

Thanksgiving is a few weeks away yet but we have much for which to be thankful. It’s Election Day in America.







About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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