America is Great


Make America ∧ Great Again
A post-election reflection – part 1

On Election Day Eve I wrote the following:

For the past week I have thought a lot about how to capture the energy,
emotion and monumental nature of this historic election. Now, minutes
before election day, I am struck by the joy that I feel knowing that tomorrow
Hillary Rodham Clinton will be elected President of the United States.

Joy is not the word that bubbled to the top over these last few weeks and
months. Instead, when I thought about today I felt anxious, embarrassed,
disappointed and afraid. But tonight, joy is definitely what I feel.

I feel joy not simply because tomorrow we will elect the first President who
happens to be a woman, but because that woman is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

On Election Day, I voted around 5pm and had never seen so many people at my polling location. After voting, I headed to a maximum security correctional facility to watch the election returns from 6:30-8:45pm with a group of incarcerated men. These men are members of a volunteer program I created and run where I utilize psychological research to foster physical, psychological and cognitive wellness. On a typical program night we discuss scientific research relevant to their own self-awareness and personal growth and to society as a whole. This Presidential election season was brimming with opportunities to discuss relevant psychological research.

The program meets in the library of the facility. When we are in the library we forget where we are. When I arrived in the library I set up our “election day war room”. This included: one giant electoral map, red and blue markers, state/electoral-vote-tracker handouts, and handouts with all of the Senate seats up with the following columns: State, Incumbent, Challenger, and Prediction. And then I waited watching CNN on the tiny 15 inch TV affixed to the ceiling.

As the men arrived we greeted each other and got right to it. We begin each meeting reciting our mission. It is important to note that this mission was written collaboratively by the men in the program, it is as follows:

“Our vehicle is the mind, fully gassed, and built to travel.
Our quest for information is our motivation.
Our desire for introspection is our inspiration.
Our goal for transformation is our destination.”

After reciting our mission I ask each of them to describe how they are feeling in one word. The words for this evening can be summarized in one word: optimistic.

Even though these men cannot vote, they are energized, engaged and curious when talking about the election. During our previous meeting I asked them to predict how many electoral votes each candidate would win. As we waited for the first results to come in we shared our predictions. One of the men actually had three sets of predictions. He wasn’t sure if this year would be the year Arizona would “go blue” and Utah would stop Trump or Trump would penetrate the rust-belt or something in between, but all of his predictions resulted in a Hillary Clinton win.

As we talked Electoral College predictions, we discussed whether the electoral college has outlived its usefulness. This morphed into a discussion and questions about elections where there was an electoral college and popular vote split. Little did we know that the 2016 election would be added to this list.

“How many times has a candidate won the electoral vote but lost the popular vote?” one of the men asked, followed by, “or the other way around” from another one of the men. I am neither a historian nor a political scientist so other than offering the 2000 Bush v. Gore race I had nothing. Normally, when I run into a question that goes beyond my expertise I turn to the internet or a database, but we do not have access to the internet on “the inside”. So, I combed the library looking for a book and settled on an encyclopedia on the American Presidency. In between breaking news updates I read in chronological order, summaries of the results of Presidential Elections until we stumbled on to the exciting election of 1824, when neither Jackson nor Adams secured a enough electoral votes to win and the election was decided by the House of Representatives! (Adams “won”). “Can you imagine!?!” I said.

As more results came in our attention was divided between coloring in the giant map, filling in the state-electoral-vote and Senate race trackers and discussing election history. Eventually, I reached the elections of 1876, when Tilden (who?) won the popular vote but lost the electoral college to Hayes and 1888, when Harrison defeated Cleveland by winning the electoral college but not the popular vote.

By the time the bell rang and I said my goodbyes 17 states had been called: (Kentucky, Vermont, Indiana, West Virginia, South Carolina, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Delaware, Illinois, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama), and the states of Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Michigan were too close to call. Additionally, of the nine most hotly contested Senate races, results were in for three. Marco Rubio won in Florida, Todd Young defeated Evan Bayh in Indiana and in Illinois, Tammy Duckworth defeated Republican incumbent Mark Kirk. Lastly, it was clear that Republicans would maintain their majority in the House of Representatives.

As I walked out of the facility I was feeling great – the states that had been called were called for the candidate I expected, and the democrats had picked up the Illinois Senate seat.

As I got into my car and turned on my phone I cleared the old news alerts, turned up the phone volume and drove out of the parking lot. Less than two miles into my ride I had to pull over to read the latest alerts: Clinton won New York and Trump won Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Texas, Nebraska and Nebraska’s 1st and 3rd districts. Nothing real surprising with these calls although I was concerned that Virginia still had not been called for Clinton, given that Tim Kaine is a Virginian. For a split second Gore’s loss of Tennessee entered into my consciousness – but I pushed that thought out of my head quickly.

I was feeling pretty good and excited that I would be home shortly and able to settled in for what I expected would be a relatively early evening.

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