Two Years From Now by Jamie Kirkpatrick


Election Day is finally here. Soon enough, we’ll know if a blue wave or even a blue ripple has begun to wash away the rising red tide in Congress and even though Mr. Trump’s name does not appear on any ballot today, it’s clear to me that this midterm election is a referendum on his dubious brand of populism. All the negative campaigning and the fear-mongering advertising can’t hide the fact that this is an important moment in our history. We can either become a people of compromise and compassion or a people of polarization and hate. It’s time for us to choose.

But first things first. If you’re reading this on Tuesday, and the polls where you live are still open, stop reading this and please go vote if you haven’t already done so. Ever since 1776, a lot of people have fought and died for our precious right of citizenship so just go do it. Your voice matters; there’s no such thing as lip-syncing in this choir. Democracy is like marriage: it requires equal parts of love and hard work and standing idly on the sidelines is neither.

All that said, I’m already looking ahead to two years from today. The first Tuesday of November, 2020 (November 3, by the way) will mark our 59th quadrennial Presidential election and right now, there’s no telling whose name will be on the ballot. All signs indicate that once this midterm election is concluded, Mr. Mueller may finally reveal the cards he’s been holding in his hand for lo these many months and who knows where that will lead? Not me. But I do know this: wherever We the People go next, I hope we move away from the fringes of our great collective and make our way back toward the center. It’s my belief that there’s more room there than we realize and if we are to grow and thrive, that’s where we have to start. I know that’s where I will look for leadership.

The great question, of course, is “Who can lead from there?” Not Mr. Trump, that’s for sure. He has proven to be a pernicious divider, not a compassionate healer. His style of governing—if you can call it that—is to stoke the fires of fear and hate which in the end will only lead us all over the cliff. Nor do I see any potential for leadership among the current crop of GOP enablers who by their ominous silence are complicit in this deteriorating state of affairs. I believe there are still moderate Republicans out there who are capable of taking back the Party of Lincoln, but it’s high time for them to come forward and claim that mantle. Colin Powell: where are you? John Kasich: is it you? Charlie Baker? Nikki Haley? Anyone? ANYONE? (No; not you, Mr. Romney; you already had your turn.)

Across the aisle, things aren’t any better. Mrs. Clinton: please stop running; your time has come and gone. Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Warren are not centrists; they would be as polarizing to the right as Mr. Trump is to the left. Even Mr. Biden—as popular as he is with many—had his chance and for understandable reasons, chose not to run. There are some younger Democrats now rehearsing their lines—Mr. Booker, Ms. Harris, Ms. Gillibrand—but they have yet to prove their political mettle or their centrist credentials. Looking farther afield, there are some interesting future prospects: Maryland’s own Chris Van Hollen, John Hickenlooper (Governor of Colorado), or Michael Bloomberg (former Mayor of New York) ought to start warming up in the bullpen. (Mr. Bloomberg, however, probably shouldn’t throw too many pitches—his arm might get tired).

When the polls close today and the midterm election is fully and finally over, it’s not too soon to start thinking ahead to the main act. The outcome of today’s election—whatever it is—will likely leave us with an ugly purple bruise that will make things worse in the short term. But I still have hope for us. We’ll do better next time.

In the aftermath of World War I, Irish poet W.B. Yeats reminded us that when the center cannot hold, things fall apart. How true! November 3, 2020 is only two years from now. Mark your calendar.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is


Letters to Editor

  1. Well said, Jamie! I have voted in 15 presidential elections, seven times Republican, seven times Democratic, and once for an Independent. My preferred presidential candidate didn’t always win, but never did I use terms like “despicable” and “detestable” to describe any of them. Until now.

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