History will long regard these past two months as a very dark chapter in the American story. The challenge facing the next generation, now tasked with repairing the assault on democracy.
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As the vote count in the 1960 election continued into the early morning hours of the following day, the tally showed Vice-President Richard Nixon trailing Senator John Kennedy by a razor thin margin of 100,000 votes out of 68 million cast.
There were disputes in the state of Texas, where Kennedy led by 46,000 votes, and Illinois, where Kennedy led by 9,000 votes. Encouraged by his aides to challenge the outcome and contest the election, Nixon instead called Kennedy that afternoon and congratulated him on a hard fought victory.
In explaining why he quickly conceded, Nixon told journalist Earl Mazo that the country could not afford the agony of a constitutional crisis over a contested election.
Nixon did not vilify election workers who had counted the ballots. There were no conspiracies involving dead dictators, or voting machines programed to rig the count through a secret bunker in Germany. No Governors were subjected to death threats for certifying the election outcome of their state.
History will long regard these past two months as a very dark chapter in the American story.
Democracy will be preserved. A new President will be inaugurated in January. The food fight will quiet down and the talking heads will move on. But the wounds of this assault on democratic rule will take decades to heal.
The business of the country, and the challenges we face will soon force our attention to matters more urgent. And those too will test the rails of our Republic.
We cannot overcome the Covid pandemic, or meet the challenge posed by China, or fix what divides rich from poor, minority from white, urban from rural, or young from old if we don’t resolve to make democracy work. Yelling at each other will not fix it.
Next year, the year after, and during the decade to come the levers of power will be handed to a new generation. There will be problems to fix. The greatest challenge will be a test tougher than faced by the greatest generation–preserving a democracy that is worth preserving.
Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
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