The headline, in part, is a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson’s narrative of the 1972 election of Richard M. Nixon to a second, albeit abbreviated, term as president.
It was the first year we voted, by a mere six days. And yes, Nixon was “the one” as the campaign slogan stated. Forty-six years later, and sporting a 100 percent voting record since, we’d make that same choice today.
But the environment in 2018 is far more toxic than the turbulent ‘70s. Going into Tuesday’s final vote, you can feel the fear — among Democrats, among Republicans. It erupted yet again Sunday with an abject lesson in the form of hacking allegations and perhaps hopes for an “October” surprise on the eve of the election. But who’s hope and why? We might never know — until after the critical vote.
You see, Tuesday is a virtual wild card, at least atop the Georgia ballot. Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp are deadlocked, according to the polls that often are more wrong than right. Enough votes for Libertarian Ted Metz could mean four more weeks of hate speech in campaign ads.
That’s certainly something to fear. Or is it? Despite a vicious election cycle, something wonderful happened.
People voted. In near-record numbers. As advance voting ended Friday, 2.1 million Georgians already had cast ballots in Tuesday’s general election. In the May primary, 1.16 million people voted in the gubernatorial races (Democrat and Republican). So where did an extra one million voters come from — just with advance voting and mail-in ballots with election day yet to come?
Earlier reports from the AJC say many of these early voters didn’t go to the polls in 2014. Again, that’s something to fear. Exactly which candidate is benefiting from the early vote landslide? Some of the clues are here in an excellent blog post by Jamie Dupree of WSB. Click Vote
And what has motivated these voters? The caustic primary where the Republican nominees were locked in a virtual arms race with shot guns and NRA blessings and such? (Has anyone heard from Jake since the May primary?)
And what about the TV ad allegations since? Unpaid taxes, half-million-dollar loan defaults, continuing voting security conflicts and challenges, trashy romance novels, a virtual “Dancing With the Network Stars” swing by celebrity endorsers from Trump to Obama to Oprah to Will Ferrell to Kelsey Grammer. That’s certainly something to fear — media “personalities” in any election cycle. We understand the current and previous presidents. But the others?
And yet a stunning number of Georgians voted in advance this year.
We’re reading campaign finance reports that show both leading gubernatorial candidates had collected a combined $43.1 million in contributions through Oct. 25. Those numbers will soar if we go into a runoff as “resources” reserved for other races around the country would flow in this direction.
In turn, we’re seeing “down-ballot” candidates bolster their campaigns in the final days, either encouraged by party voter analysis — or fearing it.
Whatever. A shocking number of Georgians are sporting those peachy “I voted” stickers.
Again, that is reason for some to fear the 2018 election cycle.
And what of the recent headlines, the massacre in Pittsburgh just nine months after the Parkland slayings? And the surprise special session called by the governor to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in hard-hit South Georgia? (Florida’s Legislature has yet to do the same even though communities were almost wiped out by Michael).
And what of the bitterness in Rome fueled by Abrams visit in October to Schroeder’s New Deli, resulting in calls for a permanent customer boycott? We read some of the trash on Facebook but apparently none of us heard the vicious phone calls received by the staff.
Still, Rome and Floyd County residents packed early voting stations for three consecutive weeks. And the numbers were even higher in Bartow County.
Again, something for some to fear.
So now we’re in the final hours of the campaign. The last wild card could be dealt by the weather. Strong to severe storms are possible Tuesday. Would they be enough to keep voters home? “Driving rain and unseasonably chilly weather” dampened voter turnout in 2002, according to a New York Times analysis of that election. That’s when Republican challenger Sonny Perdue upset Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes to win the governor’s race.
More “what ifs” for some to fear. We’re just wondering which party will be accused of hacking the weather.
So let’s look at it all: Acidic campaign accusations, record contributions to the top candidates, an uncharted wave of voters — blue or red — and now an election day forecast that only Jim Cantore could love.
Does it all boil down to fear and loathing? Hardly. We call it democracy, with a lower case “d” as Wendy Davis always says. Who can argue with what could be unprecedented turnout?
Your candidate might win this bruising election or he/she might lose. That doesn’t matter. We’re already declaring a winner before the last ballot is cast Tuesday evening.
That winner is the 2018 voter.
Democrat or Republican or Libertarian, the voter of 2018 is fearless. We can’t wait to see all those ballots counted Tuesday night because we hope it means the people have taken back control of the election process.
If you haven’t done so yet, please vote Tuesday.
John Druckenmiller is editor and publisher of Hometown Headlines Inc.