By John Rolfe
I’m proud to say I’ve now held my nose and done my civic duty by voting in 12 presidential elections. None have had the warm, fuzzy, apocalyptic feel of this one.
Dire charges of widespread voter fraud, suppression and intimidation; reports of foreign meddling; President Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power; threats of litigation, violence or even Civil War; and a raging pandemic have teamed up to create one doozy of an experience.
With all the obstacles to voting that have been created in many states, I went to the town hall in Rhinebeck, NY, on October 24, angrily determined to cast my ballot in a reliable location even if it meant waiting on a long line in Hades while wearing petroleum knickers.
Fortunately, the weather was pleasantly cool and the early voters only stretched down the block and around a corner, costing me an hour or so of time in this wonderful world of ours. During a normal election, I’d waltz in and out of my polling place in 15 minutes.
Having had COVID-19, I find it especially galling that people are being forced to risk their health by voting in public places because safer alternatives have been denied, they can’t trust the Postal Service to deliver their ballots on time, or they fear they will be rejected on a technicality that isn’t usually regarded as possible evidence of fraud.
Now, a reasonably right-minded individual might think a 244-year-old nation that proclaims voting to be a sacred right and obligation would have a secure, reliable, consistent, well-maintained system of registration and tabulation by now. “But nooooo!” as the late, great John Belushi used to say. Trump has already declared this election the most corrupt in history, so out into the dark clouds of anger and foreboding we went.
The scene in Rhinebeck was peaceful, but black humor prevailed with the apprehension that our votes will ultimately be negated by a partisan judge or by subterfuge. After signing in and presenting my receipt to a poll worker, my paper ballot did not print out correctly, so I had to be issued another, which led me to wisecrack that I would probably be arrested for voting twice. My son added that when we fed our ballots into the counting machine, they would likely be shredded instantly.
While walking back to our car, a noisy caravan of Trump supporters in pickup trucks rolled through town with banners waving and horns blaring. My otherwise demure daughter gave them a double-barreled middle finger salute.
Now, ordinarily I would be horrified by her behavior. She was raised to be polite and respectful, and I’ve loudly advocated the high road in these ugly, juvenile times. Unfortunately, I’m ashamed to admit I felt a distinct sense of “Yeah, you tell ‘em, kid!” pride.
Alas, the lure of the low road has become irresistible after years of Trump’s childish insults and millions of my fellow Americans deciding that if they can’t rise to someone else’s level they can always drag them down to theirs.
“Trump 2020 No More Bullshit” is a lovely new slogan I frequently see. The President’s supporters clearly do not suffer from an irony deficiency. Unless it’s a promise that Trump will finally shake hands with truth, that’s a pretty funny thing to declare about the source of 20,000-and-counting verified false or misleading statements. It’s also aggravating.
As a school bus driver tasked with getting kids to mind their language and manners, I glower at a big, inflatable snowman with the Trump BS slogan on its belly every time I roll by it with a busload of urchins. The person who erected it lives down the block from a primary school. Here’s to keeping America classy.
Frankly, I’m plum exhausted by the manure and madness. I wish voting would make it all go away, but it probably won’t.
John Rolfe is a former senior editor for Sports Illustrated for Kids, a longtime columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network, and author of The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life. His school bus drivin’ blog “Hellions, Mayhem and Brake Failure” is parked on his website Celestialchuckle.com (https://celestialchuckle.com) with the meter running.