Life at Miss Hall’sOct 29, 2020

— updated Nov 12, 2020

Impacts of the upcoming elections

History Department Chair Matt Rutledge P’08, ’11 shared brief thoughts on the upcoming election at a recent community meeting

(Amy Inglis)

Most of us are familiar with the medical term 20/20 as a reference to how clearly we see, and  yet it is indisputable that our national vision here in 2020 is blurred. Social warrior Jamila Lysicott takes a poetic look back from the future to describe our country today as “the Divided States of America,” a judgment that summarizes our current disunity. The greatest gift of history lies in its ability to judge us, to validate our visions or to condemn our mistakes. When you are older, I think you will tell your loved ones about these days and why they mattered.

The United States national elections take place this Tuesday, November 3. These elections take place every two years and offer us the chance to play a role in choosing our representation in Congress. Every four years—and that means right now—the stakes feel even higher as we go to the polls to choose our next president.

Many of you know that we actually choose our President through a complicated process known as the Electoral College that only School President Hannah Holt truly understands. This constitutional mechanism has decidedly undemocratic roots, yet it stands as the means by which we make this enormous decision. Ask your teachers or friends — or Hannah — what this means. Pay attention to the Electoral College, as this strangely-shaped key opens the door to enormous power. The stakes of this particular election are monumental.

First, the candidate we choose to be president serves as the country’s most powerful voice and as our face to the world. The President’s beliefs on issues of enormous importance, including racial justice, the coronavirus, climate change, economic opportunity, and immigration policy, may well dictate the very terms under which you and your families live your lives.

History Department Chair Matt Rutledge P’08, ’11 presents at virtual community meeting on October 28, 2020.

Second, the same may be said of the choices being made for those who serve in Congress: the President can go nowhere without a Senate to support them, for example, so five or six senatorial elections this year are arguably as important as the choice for president. How the people vote determines which laws will be passed and who may serve on the Supreme Court, decisions that will literally dictate the legal and moral future of our country. Voting matters.

Lastly, these elections shape our lives on state and local levels as well. For example, Massachusetts voters will decide this year how they feel about ranked-choice voting, which some believe to be a stronger expression of democracy than our current system. Additionally, we vote to send local residents off to our state capitals to make known the interests of the very places in which we live.

In the spirit of better understanding, we invite you to ask any questions you have about the elections, which Hallmark Democracy students and Current Events club members will answer for you in these coming days. Stay tuned for more on this.

It could well be that this coming Tuesday night we will know who will be the President of the United States for the next four years. It is also possible, especially in the face of COVID and its likely impact on voting, that we won’t know who the next American president will be when we wake up next Wednesday morning. Regardless of when a winner is declared, it is fair to say that many of us feel this election more deeply because so many important ideas are at stake.

160 years ago, our sixteenth President addressed the country even as it was falling apart after the Election of 1860, a political contest that led directly to civil war. The new President, a man named Abraham Lincoln, appealed to what he called “the better angels of our nature,” a reminder that we owe each other our kindness and respect. I hope that your conversations will be characterized by civility and that your hearts will be guided by empathy and compassion as we work our way through this historic moment in time. Thank you.