Baseball, voting, and self-government

How do we have safe elections in November?

Don’t take me out to the ball game

The rules of the game haven’t altered, exactly: there will still be two teams, meeting on the same playing field, testing their fitness and skills against each other while also putting on a display for the whole nation. There will still be vigorous debates about starting lineups and who is fit to lead, but the environment in which it is played will have to be adapted significantly, for the safety of the players, but primarily for the fans.

I am speaking, of course, about that hallowed, traditional game of politics. Though I hear that Major League Baseball is proposing some big changes, too. Who knew banning spitting could be so important?

More important than the playoffs

While team owners and MLB officials are debating how to avoid a season-long rain check, the rest of us face a coming election that cannot be delayed a year. In a democracy, one of the ways we participate in the management of a public health crisis is by selecting the leaders we expect to drive policy solutions. We can show our approval or disapproval of what has happened this year at the federal, state, and local levels by voting.

And, unlike the COVID-19 pandemic, fall elections have the potential to be a catastrophe that we did see coming. We don’t know where virus management will be in November, but we do know there will be an election that traditionally involves large segments of the population, gathered in close proximity to participate in the democratic process.

Let’s not be off base in November

There are plenty of discussions happening about what is most fair and safe for all involved. You don’t need to go far to hear conversations about voting by mail and other ideas, and, wherever you find those conversations, you’ll also find strong difference of opinion. Unlike baseball, though, we can’t just agree to disagree and double-down on backing our respective teams.

Finding a way for citizens of all political parties to cast their vote (without risking their health and well-being), is crucial to the preservation of our country and our confidence in it.

Whatever your politics, safe and fair elections are a bi-partisan issue. And the way we manage a public health emergency and the political challenges that go with it will have significant implications for the future of the system and the values we hold as a society.

I leave you with some thoughts on self-government from our recent podcast guest, Dr. Larry Diamond of Stanford University:

Crises always test self-government. Unlike authoritarian regimes—which can use force, fear, and fraud to control their populations—democracies rely on open information and the consent of the governed. Unlike China, democracies cannot cover up their failures for very long. If citizens lose faith in the legitimacy of democracy as the best form of government—if their institutions cannot function effectively during a crisis, and especially if a view takes hold that authoritarian regimes are managing the crisis more “decisively”—many democracies will be at grave risk of failure.

5 more links worth your time

  1. Should Vote by Mail be Required in All States?, The Thread – A look at arguments for and against states adopting voting by mail.
  2. Counting on coronavirus luck is not a fall election strategy. Best bet is vote by mail, USA Today – Stanford Professor Larry Diamond suggests that voting by mail is not only the best strategy for public health during the election, but that it is the best strategy for ensuring the integrity of our elections.
  3. How to Protect the 2020 Vote from the Coronavirus, Brennan Center for Justice – One proposal for ensuring elections are “free, fair, accessible, and secure” this year.
  4. I voted in South Korea’s elections. This is what democracy can look like in a pandemic, Vox – “The strict health and safety measures South Korea’s government put in place for election day could serve as a blueprint for the rest of the world — including the United States — on how to safely hold an election amid the coronavirus pandemic.”
  5. ‘We can’t afford to wait’: coronavirus could shut out droves of new US voters, The Guardian – The virus could affect voter registration numbers in the US as canvassing is disallowed under social distancing guidelines.

p.s. If you’ve got a political, ideological, or philosophical issue you’ve been considering, email me at and I’ll work with my team to put together a list of articles, issues, and interesting points of view to share with you and others.