The paper ballots were drastically different. One was white, large, and full of print. The other was blue, the size of a small note pad, and had just a few options. It was my first election after moving to Southwest Georgia. My new bride was working at the polls, trying to meet people in her new community.
A notable but elderly citizen came in the door of the polling station, signed in for his Democratic ballot and then noticed the small blue papers in a pile on the desk. “Are those for the colored people?”, he asked. My wife managed to choke out the response and told the gentleman, “No sir. Those are for the Republicans”.
Almost 20 years later, I was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. It was a special election which meant you did not run as a Democrat or Republican. I was fortunate to win decisively and was sworn in the day after the election. In front of the entire House, I was then asked by the Speaker if I wished to declare as a Republican or Democrat. I had given it almost no thought and certainly did not expect to be asked the question in front of all my new colleagues.
I declared as a Democrat because, well everyone in Southwest Georgia at that point was a Democrat. If I had any hope of making a difference in my newly elected position, I had to align with the powers that controlled everything, namely the Southern Democrats.
Several years later, I switched parties over philosophical differences of the issues at hand. I commissioned a poll the week before my party switch and received a 100% approval rating. The week after I changed from a Democrat to a Republican, my negative rating went to 25%. No changes in my beliefs or my representation of my district. It was my first inkling of the party partisanship that was lurking on the horizon.
Our country has just gone through yet another impeachment. I struggle with the events that led to the trial, the appropriateness of the impeachment itself, and the outcome. I am not alone.
While I hold some members of the Senate in low regard because of their grandstanding and twisting of facts, I understand the challenges that both parties faced. What I find more pressing is how we, the vast middle of the American public, face our own challenges about the impeachment. What now?
Donald Trump lost the election by seven million votes, but at the end of election day he still had a reasonable chance of winning the Electoral College. That is our system, for better or worse. He absolutely had a right to challenge the outcome, but also an obligation to abide by the verdict. Trump’s campaign lost over 60 different court cases regarding the election results, including a significant number of cases overseen by judges that Trump himself appointed.
The behavior of the 45th President after the election will forever taint the legacy of Donald Trump. While the former President desires to retain the power he has enjoyed for the past four years, it is almost certain to fade. He may cause some that opposed him to lose in their next primary, but the tide of public opinion will steadily erase his influence.
While I never agreed with Trump’s manner, tweets, and taunts, I benefited from some of his policies. His tax policy benefited me more than I deserved. His push to ease regulations greatly assisted the growth of our company in the first couple of years of his Presidency.
Nevertheless, we are where we are. Trump has been impeached twice and acquitted twice. In the just concluded trial, he was acquitted but not found innocent. 57% of the Senate found him guilty. Perhaps that is enough.
I am a proud moderate, a proud American, a former Republican and a former Democrat. No party will ever hold sway over my vote in the future. I will vote for those individuals I think have the best vision for the America I love.
As we ponder the question, “What now?”, do not look too far for the answer. It does not lie in our political parties, in Washington or at Mar-A-Lago. It resides in your own heart, your independent mind, and your soul.
Search for the answers on your own and vote with a certain conviction that your vote matters more than ever. Just remember that the votes that do not agree with you count just as much as your own vote.
In that election held almost 45 years ago in a small Southwest Georgia county, only four people picked up the small blue ballot. Four Republicans voted in a place of almost complete Democratic Party dominance. Their votes counted then, just as all votes must count now.
So, what now? It is time to move on.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org