Copyright © 2002 Henrietta W. Hay
November 8, 2002
Every two years on a Wednesday morning early in November slightly less
than half of the Americans are depressed and convinced that civilization
as we know it is doomed. Slightly more than half are celebrating a
great victory which will bring glory and prosperity and eternal power.
According to Charles Dickens, "it (is) the best of times and ... the
worst of times."
I am in the slightly less than half this time. It is the worst of
times. I would have my door draped in black if I had any black stuff to
drape it with.
It is a sad day for American women. The constitutional theory of checks
and balances will be out of order for two years. With all three
branches of government in the hands of Republicans whose power base is
the far right, issues important to women are in deep trouble. Women's
health care, child care, medical research for women, health insurance,
Social Security, women's right to control their own bodies are all
Abortion is now a political issue rather than a private, moral one.
Many Republicans nationwide campaigned openly on an "anti-abortion, kill
Roe v. Wade" plank. Bush Administration judicial candidates have
apparently been required to pass the abortion litmus test, and now
Republicans will control the Senate Judiciary Committee. I do sincerely
wish good health to the present members of the Supreme Court.
We have survived crises before, and each time we think it is the worst
ever. There are a few bright spots locally, however. We don't have to
rip up county government for Home Rule. The political ads on television
are over for a while. We de-Bruced another road block to progress. We
passed the campaign contributions amendment.
I have lived through a lot of post-election Wednesday mornings. When I
was a kid, my house on the morning after an election was either a happy,
wonderful place to be, or a place for a kid to get out of as soon as
possible. My mother was a political junkie too, which says something
about either heredity or environment or possibly both. She was quite
certain that "In the Beginning there was the Republican Party." I
outgrew my upbringing in that matter -- but I never had the nerve to
tell her. After all, she was a Colorado delegate to the Republican
Convention in Philadelphia in 1940 that nominated Wendell Willkie.
I cast my first vote 1936, and have not missed voting in a national
election since. Of course I have usually been on the losing end.
On the morning after Geraldine Ferraro and Walter Mondale were defeated
in 1984 I couldn't stand myself, and went out to breakfast at 6:00 am.
When the poor waitress tried to be pleasant I snarled at her that I was
there to sulk and to let me sulk, skip the kindness please. She did.
I would have done that this morning, but it was too cold.
Politics is not an American invention. "Man is by nature a political
animal," wrote Aristotle. But sometimes I wonder. Participation in the
political process does not seem to improve with the years, either in
numbers or understanding . Sometimes I like to fantasize that we have
become more conscientious in selecting our political officers. But
it's just a fantasy. According to a study by the University of
California, the voter turnout in 1824 was 26.9%, and the turnout in 1996
was 49.1 -- hardly what we would expect or hope for in nearly two
centuries of progress. The largest turnout in our history was in 1876
when Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden split the popular vote 50/50
with 81.8% of the people voting. Hayes won on the electoral vote.
Meanwhile the country goes on as it has for over 200 years. Elections
are like streetcars. There's always another one coming.