By Alan S. Chartock | November 2, 2020

The vote is sacred.

With all of his attempts to undermine the sanctity of the vote, Donald Trump has threatened to destroy our republican democracy. I don’t have to outline what he has done. He and his backers have turned their thugs loose on our country. He has undermined the First Amendment to the Constitution. He has called the press, “The enemy of the people.” He has asked his Attorney General to arrest his political opponents. He has lied without pause, to the point that he has undermined the credibility of his office. Again and again, he has attempted to limit our freedom of speech. George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower must be rolling over in their graves.

Here in Great Barrington, we know about free speech. If you go to the purest form of democracy, our town meeting, you will hear people stand up and speak their minds, no matter how crazy, selfish and delusional their words. When our town’s select persons mess up, we have the opportunity to throw them out, should anyone care to run against them for the often thankless job that they do. Of course, we have experienced our own corrupt politicians but that’s why the vote is so important. In the same way that Donald Trump has done the unthinkable to our country by exacerbating the divisions that emerged after the Civil War, we know that if our local political people or even our state reps get crazy, we can vote to remove them if we so wish.

Now the country is reminded once again about the sanctity of the vote. It’s a funny thing. It is not unusual to see less than half of the eligible voters show up at the polls for our presidential elections. This, we know, is very bad for the Democrats because among their number are those who have most often suffered the oppression of an unfair power structure. On the one hand, many of these folks rightfully complain about how society has treated them but on the other, many of them don’t do the one thing that could, and should, make a difference — vote.

When we fought WW II, our servicemen and women gave their lives to preserve our freedom and the right to vote. We were fighting Hitler and Tojo and as so many of our troops fell in battle, perhaps they were thinking about how they could willingly sacrifice themselves in order to preserve our way of life, including the right to vote and to speak our minds.

We in the Berkshires are forever proud of Norman Rockwell and his depiction of the Four Freedoms that mean so much to all of us. We all know that Trump’s constant bloviating empowers the very crowd that was on the losing end of the Civil War. That’s right. Many among his supporters are descendants of the same people who flew that Confederate flag.

However, we can be encouraged by the continuing evolution of some of the most southern of southern states — places with names like Georgia and North Carolina. Now people of color have their chances to be governors and United States Senators. Much of that is because of the vote. We know that Donald Trump and his people have tried to limit that right. They have gone to court and they have tried to suppress the vote. Indeed, Trump has said that one of the reasons he wanted Amy Coney Barrett on the court was so that she would help him during or after the election to swing things his way.

So as people vote today, and as they have been voting for days before, they must know how much is riding on this election. After the Civil War people used to say, “…the south will rise again.” It turns out that it wasn’t the geography but the racist ideology that led to that war. It is now, once again, attempting to rise again and that why the vote is so important. I hope it will save us.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].