In a lot of ways, Nov. 4, 1980, the country’s slow but inexorable rightward political lurch reached its apotheosis. Voters decided to oust Jimmy Carter from the White House in favor of Gov. Ronald Reagan of California, by a cartoonish margin, delivering a debilitating blow to the liberalism that came to flower after the New Deal. Democrats were cast out into the wilderness, and undertook some painful soul-searching before shifting significantly to the center. But it wasn’t really over until 1994, when the Democrats lost Congress, which had been theirs for decades.
That was the last time Nov. 4 fell on Election Day. That was also the only election in my mother’s adult life in which she didn’t vote — though she had a pretty good reason, having just given birth to a set of twins few minutes past midnight that morning. Today, 28 years later, the country is on the precipice of another seismic realignment, and one ushered in by an historic, improbable candidacy. My mother has spent the last few days phone banking and canvassing in Pennsylvania for a campaign that she rightly thought could never happen.
I went for a jog in Prospect Park this morning, and it was unseasonably warm out. At some point today, my sister and I will find a moment to say happy birthday to one another. And I’ve got some errand-running to do before I head to Harlem to watch the results at my friend’s house.
But right now I’m going to go vote.