“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.” —Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Last month, my editorial was written following the debacle of the first presidential debate. By any standard, the debate was a sad commentary on the state of our union, as well as an affront to civil decorum owed to the American public by our leadership. I admitted in that editorial that my faith in the resilience of our longest-established democracy had been shaken. The utter departure of the present executive branch from any semblance of established norms of behavior, the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis the virus has spawned, crippling national debt, unchecked inflation looming and hurricanes and wildfires reminding Americans of our climate sins, are among the unrelenting list of reasons to be glad 2020 will soon be in the history books, along with this last US Medicine editorial for December. Despite the numerous reasons to lament the past year, there has been a bright spot among the chaos of the past several months. The silver lining is the recent American election.
At least 159.8 million Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election, the largest number in our history and the largest percentage of eligible citizens (during a raging pandemic, no less) to vote since 1900.1 Regardless of who they voted for, the more important fact is they voted in record numbers, reaffirming that our constitutional democracy works. Democracy is a verb; it requires action on the part of those who wish to enjoy its benefits. Unlike me, you might not be happy with the result of this election, but the more important fact is that together, as Americans, we made our will known to our leaders. More than 100 million Americans voted (as is their right within their respective state laws) early or by mail. I exercised my right to vote by mail to avoid the unnecessary mingling with crowds that facilitates the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Along with millions of other Americans who voted by mail, I fully expect, as is my right, that my vote will be counted, no matter how long it takes.
Has this election been a “nail-biter?” Absolutely, as neither candidate performed poorly. Clearly, this election has reaffirmed there are deep divisions in opinion regarding our country’s direction. Chiefly among these divergences in opinion is how healthcare should be administered in our society, which was definitely a topic that influenced my vote as a federal healthcare provider.
Fortunately, our Founding Fathers understood that both the incredible strength and significant challenge to our society rests on the diversity of opinions and beliefs among its citizens. They had the foresight to develop a system of checks and balances among the three equal branches of government to ensure minority opinions could be heard and protected while preserving the majority’s will. They created a system that demanded compromise between disparate groups on an issue to move forward. Most importantly though, they created a government that is subject to the will of the governed through free and fair elections of our leaders. This last election was the most successful expression of that process in our history. We should all revel in that fact, since the rest of the world marvels at our success.
As I write this editorial, the results of the 2020 presidential election are no longer in doubt. The front-line workers, Republican and Democrat, who have staffed the poll locations, served as observers and spent countless hours on the counting floors throughout America are the true heroines of this story. My eldest daughter volunteered on Election Day to support this most crucial function of our democracy. The loud and meritless claims of fraud by those angered by the voting outcome only serve to undermine our democracy. This election vote count has been notable for its openness and lack of irregularity, even with the historic number of votes cast. Despite the hard facts of the election tally and the reality of the greater than 270 electoral college votes won by the Democratic ticket, the present administration refuses to acknowledge this result. The failure to accept these election results is perhaps the most-disturbing threat to our democracy in history.
I imagine our Founding Fathers could not have conceived or anticipated a Donald Trump or a Trump administration. Then again, they did not have to, because they provided us the gift of a constitution that places the power of government and governing in the hands of the people, not any single individual. As Lincoln reminded us during the last great challenge to the U.S. Constitution, we the people are the masters of our government. We the people have spoken, and the peaceful transition of power that makes our democracy the envy of the world now needs to occur as it always has before. If you are among the millions of voters who did not vote for the president-elect, fear not, because you will have another opportunity in four years to express your displeasure if the new government does not perform as you desire. Regardless of your political persuasion or pleasure/disappointment in the outcome, the election is over, and we need our new government to get back to work.
The problems I outlined earlier are not going away. We cannot afford to allow any citizen to pervert the Constitution as Lincoln so prophetically warned. I am confident the true patriots in our government, regardless of their party affiliation, understand this fact and honor their oath (as I have my entire life) to protect and defend the Constitution. To do otherwise is unthinkable.
- Hannah Miao; CNBC: 2020 election sees record high turnout with at least 159.8 million votes projected: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/04/2020-election-sees-record-high-turnout-with-at-least-159point8-million-votes-projected.html. Accessed 11/11/2020.