10,704 — the number of votes which catapulted my home state of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2016. I had this number bouncing around in my head as I dropped my absentee ballot into the blue mailbox last week, the responsibility feeling nearly overwhelming. I know, logically, that my single vote is unlikely to swing any election, but there’s something incredibly anxiety-inducing and intoxicating about believing that to be true.
Pollsters have spent the last few months obsessing over a handful of counties in a handful of states, a small subset of thousands of people — the determinants for an election which has millions of eligible voters and billions of helpless observers.
On Oct. 26, Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, securing a 6-3 conservative majority and the third Trump appointment to the Supreme Court. But the court has been failing democracy left and right even without Barrett: The day she was appointed, the court ruled that Wisconsin ballots that are postmarked before Election Day but arrive at voting precincts afterward will not be counted, further incentivizing the Republican assault on the USPS and the privatization of public services.
Indeed, the Right is on the offense. Joe Biden cannot change that.
Yet part of the reason why Joe Biden — and the rest of the Democratic Party — more frequently become enablers rather than any type of #resistance is not due to Biden’s campaign persona as the “nice guy” to Trump’s blatant rudeness and white supremacy. I’d argue it’s not even due to Biden’s moderate politics.
Instead, it’s because Democrats refuse to fight dirty. Barrett’s nomination illustrates that the Democratic Party has become so ineffectual as to resist using its own preexisting Constitutional powers while Republicans openly flaunt constitutionality and procedure. Speaker Nancy Pelosi could have introduced the remaining Articles of Impeachment that the Democratic House declined to introduce at the end of 2019, thereby halting all presidential appointments. Even self-proclaimed “progressives” are balking at the idea of court-packing, a practice used most notably by the president most closely associated with American progressivism: Franklin D. Roosevelt. These things are perfectly legal. They’re also perfectly possible — and would indicate to the American people that they were smart to trust a Pelosi-led House in 2018.
In Joe Biden, Democrats have embraced their own brand of conservatism. Not, of course, the conservatism of the modern American conservative coalition, which was originally formed by William F. Buckley, Jr. ’50 by uniting the interests of big business, religious conservatives and segregationists. Instead, Democrats have embraced a pseudo-Burkean conservatism that stipulates a return to normal following a Trump ousting, a belief in universal American values and the idea that the best world existed under the Obama administration when regular people didn’t need to think about politics. Where the Republican Party has claimed American nationalism to ignite racially and economically motivated populism, the Democratic Party has clung to their coattails while attempting to reclaim the American flag, the Constitution and the values we had all along.
But it’s time for Democrats to retire the “American Dream” ethos. The Constitution is dead, and Republicans have killed it. It’s time for Democrats to let it die.
These conversations are already happening — about the electoral college, about voter suppression, about court-packing, about executive power. But right now, they’re happening in a fringe wing of the Democratic Party, which, though vocal, has not been successful at convincing the party’s elites. Many Democrats want to make this a matter of principle: We shouldn’t have to cheat to win. But the other team is both cheating and winning.
Regardless of who wins this election, we already know it’s illegitimate. People have been denied the right to vote. Some of these people were disenfranchised because of their criminal records or their immigration statuses or even because they mailed their ballots to Wisconsin too late. Millions of people are essentially disenfranchised by the Electoral College, by the primary election process, and by barriers to voting like long wait lines, remote polling places, disability inaccessibility, domestic violence experiences and more.
I don’t know what world I’ll be waking up to tomorrow. And I’m scared. But I do know that I’ll wake up to a world in which Donald Trump will still be in office, even for a few more months. I’ll wake up to a world in which one “side” desperately clings to the rules while the other flagrantly disregards them to disastrous consequences. And I’ll wake up to a world in which the Constitution is already dying right in front of us, and the American Dream was always just that — a dream.
MCKINSEY CROZIER is a junior in Timothy Dwight college. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.