Serving as a volunteer poll chaplain on Nov. 8 in my home state of Ohio was an inspiring experience. I was honored to join colleagues from Faiths United to Save Democracy across the country, particularly in highly contested states, to be a friendly presence and provide moral support at the polls.
Serving as a volunteer poll chaplain on Nov. 8 in my home state of Ohio was an inspiring experience.
Our job was simple: welcome people, smile, and offer a sense of calm; respond to questions or incidents that arose; provide information on voting rights; keep an eye out for conflicts and help de-escalate any problems; and thank every voter for their participation.
The polling site in Cincinnati where I spent most of the day was well organized and expertly run. A steady stream of voters from all backgrounds passed through the doors all day. Young, old, Black, brown, and white people of different backgrounds and political persuasions. It was diverse, like our country.
It was also neighborly and friendly. People nodded and greeted one another, cracked jokes, and laughed. They knew they might vote differently, but they would still need to live together, whatever the results.
Whatever the final makeup of Congress and political offices around the country, here are my five takeaways from the Nov. 8 elections:
1. Power to the peaceful.
Thanks to ordinary people all over the country, fears of Election Day violence and turmoil were not realized. Election Day was overwhelmingly peaceful, reaffirming the power of nonviolent processes to manage political differences and uphold our democracy.
At my polling site, a young Black man arrived early in the morning looking skeptical and cautious, but left after voting with a huge smile. “I expected men with big guns and body armor, but this was just fine,” he said. The fact that he showed up to the polls despite that expectation was a powerful testament.
2. Our democracy is resilient.
Despite aggressive attacks against our democracy and the right to vote, these elections were free, fair, and honest. Where issues did arise, they were quickly acknowledged and addressed, and voters were ensured their rights.
Any claims of election fraud or stolen outcomes (and we can expect there may be some) are unfounded. These elections demonstrated the resilience of our democracy. Now, we must continue to work to protect and strengthen it through legislation like the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
3. Diversity wins.
These elections again demonstrated that our country’s diversity is showing up at the polls and in office. Maryland elected its first Black governor. The Senate will have a new Native American member for the first time in decades. Massachusetts elected the first lesbian governor and its first woman in that seat. Florida is sending the first Gen Z member of Congress to Washington. These elections continued the unstoppable trend of growing diversity in political office – representing the growing diversity of our country.
4. Lies and division lose.
While the Nov. 8 elections saw a concerning number of election-deniers run and some win, the overall outcome demonstrates that the “Big Lie” is losing steam. Many analysts noted that “Trumpism” lost the most in this election. While we remain a tightly divided nation by political party, most Americans reject toxic polarization and look for leaders who will work across the aisle and unite the country.
With the potential for a divided government over the next two years, the ability of members of Congress to work through partisan divides to focus on policy solutions will be what we need most.
5. The 117th Congress isn’t done yet.
While the final shape of the 118th Congress may not be known for days or weeks, plenty of work remains during the current Congress. An omnibus spending package will be taken up in the lame-duck session that includes funding for a wide range of programs.
FCNL will continue to advance key priorities before the 117th Congress closes. This includes extending the Child Tax Credit, repealing the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, advancing a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools, and ensuring that communities on the frontlines of environmental impacts receive the support and funding they need.
While election day is behind us, our work to build a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world continues. I hope you’ll join us next week at our Quaker Public Policy Institute and Annual Meeting to take the next steps together!