The Day After by Jamie Kirkpatrick


Both major political parties have now had their brief, shining moment in the convention sunlight. Like it or not, the stage is set for a heavyweight slugfest that will stretch on until the second Tuesday in November and probably beyond. As prospects go, this is, to say the least, unappetizing and yet it’s the fare we’ll all be served in the months prior to election day. Truth be told, I’m not sure I’m all that hungry.

My nature is to be optimistic but this period of penance pushes even my glass-half-full limits. Lent is only forty days; we’re 98 days away from anything like a denouement to this race. From now until November 8, we’ll be bombarded by all manner of media from political advertisements on television to pundit editorials in newspapers to FaceBook rants from Friends of every possible persuasion. If I could only take a Rip Van Winkle nap for the next three months; maybe things would be better by the second Wednesday in November. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t.

I don’t intend to take a side in this musing. I know for whom I will cast my vote, but that’s my business, not yours. And vice versa. I just wish we could all go back to our grammar school days, put our heads down on our desks, and just raise our hands. No super PACs, lobbyists, attack ads, or peaking; the teacher will tally the votes; when the election is over, it will be time for recess.

While I can’t begin to predict the outcome of this election, I know this much to be true: we all must vote. I hear an awful lot of “I don’t like either candidate so maybe I just won’t vote this year.” Opting out is not the answer; that’s like being unable to decide what to wear to a party so instead, just going naked. Please don’t do that. Like it or not, until we have a different way of electing our leaders, we all must make a choice. Voting for a third-party candidate might seem like a worthy alternative, but it seems to me that a third party vote is really a vote against one of the two major party candidates. So be careful, my third-party friends (and you know who you are): there may well be hard-to-swallow and unintended consequences for voting your conscience and wearing your heart on your political sleeve. Harsh as it may sound, choose—even if to you it means choosing between the lesser of two evils—and having chosen, vote wisely!

Whoever wins this election, please don’t gloat. Whoever loses, please don’t be bitter. It’s a rough-seas world out there, we’re all in the same boat, and we need to pull on the oars together. On that second Wednesday in November, there likely will be some wounds that need time to heal. Nevertheless, that day’s hangover will signal the bleary start to the most difficult and most important phase of this election: the time to thoughtfully and gracefully govern.

I once saw a tee shirt that said “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” I hope that whoever wins on November 8 will extend a lashless hand on the 9th.

And please: vote!

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”


Letters to Editor

  1. Michael Brunner says:

    You know who I am. Here’s the deal. We all know that Bernie Sanders was a third party candidate, running as a democrat. Why, because it was the only way he would be heard. The two parties get the press coverage and get to debate on prime time TV. How much influence has he had on HRC.
    It would only be good for our democracy to include more voices, different ideas. If Gary Johnson and Jill Stein were given the same recognition as the other two, might I say not well liked candidates, and put on stage for the debates, more voters would not have to hold their nose as they vote. I know I won’t.

  2. mary wood says:

    He’s right. Our leaders from George Washington to Martin Luther King fought for this right and privilege for all of us. Respect their efforts and the efforts of countless others.

  3. Michael Heffron says:

    Sorry l, Jamie, but I respectfully disagree on a couple of fronts. First, a decision to sit this Presidential election out is not “,ike going to the party naked”. Rather, it’s a decision not to got to the party at all. Also, not voting for President does not preclude one from voting for the equally important down ticket races. Second, voting for one of the remaining Third Party candidates is not the wasted vote you seem to imply that it is. It’s a vote for a candidate that is equally eligible for your vote as are the two major party candidates. I will vote in all the races in this election and whether my vote is for the eventual winner or not is not important to me….it’s just important that my vote counts and, perhaps, helps send a message.

  4. Stephan Sonn says:

    We all agree on the right to vote. If a major party does not, we have only the court systems that are only really kicking in rather recently, based on what is left of the Voting Rights Act. The privately owned states doing this are well known; no secrets as to who is behind it.

    People instigating a culture war changing our reality, that’s who. People who would use the system to kill the system. And what do we do about that.

  5. Keith Thompson says:

    I’m a third party voter and I’m quite aware of the consequences of voting my conscience and my conscience says that it is better to vote for what I want and not get it than to vote for what I don’t want and wind up getting it. If we always settle for the lesser of two evils then a Hillary vs. Trump race is exactly what we deserve as voters.

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