One of my favorite anecdotes from our nation’s founding comes from notes taken by James Madison in the fall of 1787. In them, he tells of comments made by Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the United States Constitution on September 17 of that year.
Doctor Franklin, looking toward the President’s chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising sun from a setting sun. I have, said he, often in the course of this session, and the vissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.
Fast-forward a little more than 223 years and travel approximately 700 miles south, and our apartment here in Summerville, South Carolina is eerily quiet at this hour. It’s a wee bit earlier than I am accustomed to starting my day, especially considering that I only turned in about four hours ago, but as I sit here with my coffee on our patio and look out at the dew glistening across the grass below, I realize that the eastern sky is indeed beginning to brighten.
I’ll be bringing my four-year-old daughter with me to the polls this morning, I’ve decided. She tagged along two years ago as well to watch me begrudgingly cast my vote for John McCain, but on that particular morning she decided to buck the trend and, most unlike her usually talkative self, she fell fast asleep on my shoulder. As my finger hovered over the button next to “Arlen Specter (R),” I recall being glad that she was not awake to bear witness.
This morning’s experience will be quite different, I hope. I want her to remember, not because voting with daddy provides a civics lesson or because I’ll get a kick out of spending just a little more time with her this morning before school and work claim our days, but because this election is historical.
I don’t mean “historical” in a quantifiable sense, either. Yes, the Republican Party will likely make enormous gains and, in my estimation, retake control of the House and Senate (for a while now, I’ve been saying that the GOP will gain 63 seats in the House and 10 in the Senate, but it seems like the former may even be too conservative) allowing for a premature end of the spendthrift Democratic Party majority. Yes, liberals everywhere will be walking around in their Birkenstocks and driving around in their Priuses wondering what happened, trying to ascertain how a mandate for the most transformational figure to grace the “D” side of the ballot since Kennedy could have been transmogrified into such passionate–read: obviously racist–opposition in such a sort period of time. Sure, all of that will happen and more, but that’s not why I want my daughter to be there this morning.
I mean “historical” in a much more intangible sense. How do you put your finger on exactly what happened to the American people over the past two years? How do you describe the kind of awakening so many of us received? I don’t know that I can without contrasting what we will inevitably see today with how I felt two years ago.
On November 5, 2008, I caught myself writing about what President Ronald Reagan had told his campaign staff in 1976 after a particularly tough loss to Gerald Ford in a heated primary battle. “Sure, there’s a disappointment in what happened, but the cause goes on,” Reagan said. “Don’t get cynical. Look at yourselves and what you were willing to do, and recognize that there are millions and millions of Americans out there that want what you want, that want it to be as we do, who want it to be that Shining City on a Hill.”
In only two short years, we have managed to find those millions and millions of Americans who want what we want, who want it to be as we do, who want America to be that shining city on a hill. Something happened in the United States of America between November 4, 2008 and November 2, 2010. Something snapped in a whole lot of us, and we stepped up and subsequently put our foot down. Today, this day, is America rising. Today, this day, is real American checks and balances on a large scale. Today, this day, is America utilizing the mechanisms set forth by our founders to ensure that liberty persists.
This is the America I want my daughter to see.
NOTE: Now, that being said, that’s about it for me. I need to wake up a slumbering kid. And you … you need to get out and vote. GET OUT AND VOTE! This evening, I will be watching the returns come in from congressional candidate Tim Scott’s event here in the Lowcountry. Throughout the day, check back here at America’s Right in case anything pops up that either myself or the editors feel necessary to disseminate. If you want more timely information about my whereabouts and about Election Day as it proceeds, please jump over to my Twitter feed and follow me if you are not already doing so. Twitter was made for days like this, and I look forward to seeing it explode all day long.