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Looking for a return to normalcy this election

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Commentary:

Every two years those running for office tell us this will be the most important election of our lives, and I always roll my eyes and mumble, maybe for you.

This year’s election, which starts with early voting on Oct. 11, is pretty darned important, and not for who will win control of the House, Senate and other elected positions. This year’s election is important simply for the sake of elections themselves.

In 1896, losing Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryant started a tradition that would serve our nation well for the next century, the concession speech. It was a practice he would be required to repeat in 1900 and 1908.

Every losing candidate since then has acknowledged their defeat and, more importantly, urged their supporters to rally behind the new leader for the common good of the nation. Al Gore temporarily withdrew his concession in 2000, but after the Supreme Court ruling he told the nation, “I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of the country.”

That was after what was by far the closest election of my life, decided by the results in Florida, which was still using an antiquated punch card voting system that made complete accuracy an impossibility.

As we all know, the last losing presidential candidate did not concede; he incited a riot at the U.S. Capitol instead. Since then, his enablers in Congress and state legislatures throughout the nation have constantly chipped away at the integrity of our electoral system. 

Unable to provide any evidence of actual fraud, they have invented fantastical conspiracy theories involving Hugo Chavez, the Vatican, and a search for traces of bamboo in the ballots.

The former president’s more sober supporters aren’t trying to peddle the crazy stuff, but they insist that there were “irregularities and abnormalities” in the 2020 election.

And they’re right. I’m a perfect example of that. The 2020 election was the only one in my life where I voted by mail instead of in person. That’s both irregular and abnormal. It’s also perfectly understandable, given the ongoing pandemic at the time. Like millions of other voters, I was still in my COVID bubble. That’s not proof of election fraud.

There were big changes made in the 2020 election to accommodate the pandemic, and it is fair to go back and review them now to determine if they are still necessary and if they had any effect at all on voter security. But we can’t have an honest discussion about that at the same time that so much dishonesty is being spread in an increasingly desperate and pathetic attempt to reject reality.

That all came to a head here in New Mexico when county commissioners in Otero County took it upon themselves to nullify every vote in the county simply because they developed a sudden distrust of the same voting machines that had been in use for years.

I don’t expect all of that to be reversed with this year’s election, but I am hoping that the fever breaks and we have something that looks like a return to normalcy.

And, I am urging all candidates from all parties who come up short this election to put your community or your state above your own personal feelings, acknowledge your defeat and urge your supporters to work for the common good.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com