Every year, around election time (I know; I’m running late) people suggest that it would be a good idea to declare Election Day a national holiday, thereby making it easier to vote. I’m not sure if this is actually a good idea* but certainly it’s a well-intentioned idea. Good people from all over the political spectrum can agree that making voting easier is an unalloyed benefit to society. Judging by the percentage of my social media feed that lobbies for this every year, a lot of people on the left think a holiday on Election Day would be beneficial. If the left wants to push for it, they should be able to drum up a lot of bipartisan support.
Let’s see then, how we can shoot ourselves in the foot and transform a bipartisan issue into a partisan issue?
I’m in a strange position here. Never in my life have I been less fond of the right and, by extension, more fond of the left. I voted a straight Democratic ticket in the midterm elections. I have no desire to jump on any anti-AOC hate trains. It’s just that at a certain point we have to decide whether we actually want to accomplish something. Perhaps we don’t. Often we don’t. Often we want to high-five our friends and shame our enemies, and that’s all. We all do it, and I do it too.
But IF you have a goal and IF you want to accomplish it, then perhaps you’d want to avoid telegraphing the fact that your goal is only for your demographic, and everyone else can go to hell. Any yet every year when we bring up the Election Day holiday we couple it to the elimination of Columbus Day. Here’s Joe Madison, a good ten days before Ocasio-Cortez:
Here’s Sarah Silverman, a year before:
Seriously, it happens every year.
I’m not telling you you have to like Columbus Day. I don’t care about Columbus Day. But you must already be aware that there are a lot of people who do care about Columbus Day. “Yeah,” you are already sneering; “white supremacists who want to celebrate genocide.” But these are people who think they are opposed to genocide, who think they are opposed to white supremacy, who are in other words overall decent people on many issues who might be willing to talk about a way to facilitate voting if we didn’t start the conversation by telling them we want what we want at the expense of “their” holiday.
Make no mistake: It is their holiday, and it is their holiday perhaps in part because they have always liked it and also in part because we have spent so much time telling them that it is their holiday. It’s simply become tradition for left-leaning media to pause in any discussion of Columbus Day and declare it is (as Silverman says above) a “sham” or as HuffPo does in its article about Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet, a day that “celebrates a man who never actually set foot in what is now the United States and who certainly did not ‘discover’ America.” The first half of this quote is unambiguously true, although presented, in typical HuffPo style, as a moronic gotcha!, while the second half, despite our demographic’s prevailing cant, is mostly false; but this is less important than the fact that HuffPo literally cannot bring itself to say “Columbus Day” without imagining it has the duty to deflate the day. In fact, that image of Silverman’s tweet I yanked from from some rightwing blog I won’t link to that specifically interprets her tweet as an attack on their demographic (and then counterattacks, of course, as is the custom). This is just how things ended up. Supporting Columbus Day is a rightist shibboleth; protesting Columbus Day is a leftist shibboleth. You may have great reasons for opposing Columbus Day, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a partisan issue, and saying “it shouldn’t be a partisan issue” doesn’t change the facts of the case. A lot of things shouldn’t be.
As everyone knows, if you bring a partisan issue to a bipartisan proposition, you’re torpedoing your own chances.
Look at it this way: What if Rush Limbaugh said, “We should make Election Day a national holiday, replacing MLK Day”? Would you vote for that?
*Making Election Day a national holiday would certainly help bankers vote, but I don’t think anyone was worries about bankers being able to vote in the first place. I worked retail for many years, and I never got Columbus Day off. I would not have gotten Election Day off either. Poor people will not find their benevolent bosses eager to close the shop on Election Day so the whole staff can go and vote. Therefore: I’m not really persuaded that declaring Election Day a holiday will benefit anyone.