One word keeps popping up in the discussion of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. SACRED. Belief in the electoral process is SACRED to the survival of democracy. Russian interference in the 2016 election represents an assault on a SACRED cornerstone of the American experience.
Perhaps the time has come when we Americans start treating elections as the SACRED events they are purported to be and get some of “that old time religion.” That does not mean everyone must be involved in civic life on a daily basis. After all, there are Christians who only go to services on Christmas eve and Easter morning. There are Jews who are never seen in a synagogue except during the High Holidays–Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Some Muslims fast during Ramadan although they forego daily prayers throughout the year.
Although the Constitution does not declare it so, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November should, in fact, be the highest of high holidays in the United States. So let’s start treating it like a SACRED imperative. We can begin by doing many of the same things we do to acknowledge spiritual holy days.
- Declare election day a federal holiday. With the exception of essential government services, federal, state and local offices should close for the day. For those who oppose an additional federally mandated day off, I suggest we trade Presidents Day for Election Day in alternate years. It seems a better way to honor our past leaders than a mattress sale.
- Banking and other professional services should be suspended.
- Commercial businesses should either close or reduce their hours to ensure employees have adequate opportunity to vote.
- Discontinue broadcasting partisan political advertisements except those that only encourage citizens to go to the polls.
- As with other calendar holidays, election day should span a full 24 hours. And to alleviate the effect of early returns on Western states, polls in every jurisdiction should open and close simultaneously. For example. polls would open in Hawaii at midnight and 6:00 am in the East. And then close exactly 24 hours later in Hawaii and 6:00 am the following day in the Eastern time zone.
- Charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army or Jewish Family Services should provide volunteer services to help individuals exercise their franchise (e.g. transportation to the polls or child care).
Optionally, we should celebrate the occasion with:
- A concert on the Washington Mall with fireworks.
- An election day movie marathon with films ranging from Raymond Massey’s portrayal of our 16th president in Robert Sherwood’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) to Franklin Shaffner’s adaptation of Gore Vidal’s play The Best Man (1964) to Alan Pakula’s All the President’s Men (1976).
- Forums on the meaning of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Belief in democracy and the American experience, like religion, demands a level of faith in the intangible. However, just as there are visible signs of spiritual devotion–a creche, yarmulke or prayer mat–election day has its SACRED trappings. Campaign signs outside schools, churches and firehouses where votes are cast. “I Voted” stickers. Citizens standing in line for hours to fulfill their biennial civic Haj.
So don’t tell me democracy and elections are SACRED and then treat the time dedicated to exercising one’s franchise like any other work day. Ask yourself. WWJD? What would Jefferson do?
For what it’s worth.