When you have to write a column a couple of days in advance, there’s always a danger of being overtaken by events.
This one didn’t even make it to 400 words.
“THEY CALLED PENNSYLVANIA!!” Heather shouted from the bedroom as I wrote on Saturday morning.
My brain abruptly turned into a train derailment as my fingers skidded to a stop.
“You’re kidding!” I called back.
“No! NBC, CNN, now ABC …”
I looked at my incomplete draft. And then reached for the backspace key.
Maybe I ought to buy that lottery ticket after all.
Like most of us, I had gotten used to the thought that “Call Me” might be a nice Blondie song, but it was unlikely to be seen in real life for quite some time. After all, this is how it works, right? Trickle of votes, adjust the lead, back to the count. Trickle of votes, adjust the lead, back to the count. Over and over in an endless news cycle, sort of like Peter Jennings meets Bill Murray.
To be honest, the catch-and-release pattern gave me a rueful chuckle. This used to be my former life as a newspaper reporter. In the Super Bowl-like enthusiasm of Election Day – marked by newsrooms with high adrenaline and higher pizza bills – there would always be at least one race that would defy deadlines. In a ballot full of easy calls and quick turnarounds, you would somehow draw the one that looked you in the eye and screamed “Meaningful results? TONIGHT? HAHAHAHAHA! See you in the morning, sucker!”
So yes, this is familiar. It’s just on a larger scale.
It’s also more challenging.
As a reporter, I had a job to do, a story to write at the end of it all. As a voter, it’s less obvious. After all, we’ve done our job, right? We made our call, said our say, and now we can finally be thrilled, or disappointed, or eager to see if armies of lawyers can manage to beat each other to death with briefcases.
But it’s not that simple.
When the election ends, our job is just getting started.
There’s been a lot written lately about peaceful transitions of power. That’s not just a courtesy – it’s a recognition that elective offices are under a permanent job review. Fortunes can change as easily as the tides, yesterday’s “outs” can be tomorrow’s “ins,” and when it’s your turn, you had better show the same grace on the way out that you hope to receive on the way back in.
And that job review? That’s us. Regardless of party. Regardless of faction.
And that goes on long beyond a cast-and-counted ballot.
It means watching the people we choose, and not just as a fan club. It means separating truth from fiction, learning what’s going on, learning what it means for people beyond our own sliver of the world. Not silencing our voice, but learning to hear the voices of others as well. As any choir will tell you, that’s the only way to create harmony.
It means holding people accountable for their actions, even the ones on our “team.” I use the quotes, because our real team is ultimately the country itself. No one deserves our blind support. Praise what makes us better, challenge what makes us worse, and always look for a way to bring more light and less pain to the world.
I’ve said it before – this country is never finished. We need to make sure the next chapter is one we can all be proud of. Even if we have to rewrite it in midstream.
Now and always, that is our calling.