The election of 2020 seems to fit like hand-in-glove to the bizarre nature of the year. Moreover, the election may be nothing more than a comma in the four-year, run-on sentence of the Trump presidency. This presidency has endured an unprecedented anger and contentious spirit on both sides of the aisle. Turnout for the election is estimated to be at its highest percent since the year 1900. Younger voters, under the age of 30, turned out in historic numbers.
The COVID-19 outbreak and the response of the government has monopolized the spotlight. Protests over racial inequities, border securities, economic recovery packages, climate change, environmental concerns, the Affordable Care Act, rising medical costs, hurricanes galore, allegations of voter fraud, impeachment proceedings and Supreme Court nominees just scratch the surface of the activities of the past four years.
Although the outcome of the election appears to be more certain, an unending barrage of legal protests and litigation seems destined to follow. It may be a long time before the election is settled with confidence. Are there any lessons we can learn through all this?
First, it should be obvious that the country is almost evenly divided. The division can be labeled to your desire — Democrats and Republicans, liberal and conservative, urban and rural, left and right — but the election was much closer than what either side wants to admit. The division seems to be settled in for a long stay.
Biden suggested in a speech that it is time for the healing to begin, but it is going to take more than words of encouragement to bridge this gap. In conversations, the thread that may sew the torn spirits back together is a disdain for anger. Many on the right are accused of being hateful and discriminatory, but see the exact same behavior from their counterparts on the left. Anger and hatred permeate and stagnate politics, and the electorate is weary of it.
The second lesson should be just as apparent. Polling measurements are inaccurate — or they are attempting to measure the wrong things. People answering surveys are not sure about survey rules, confused with the questions, and will create measurement errors because of the overwhelming ability to answer in a way that is inaccurate. We also have way too many people who are attempting to analyze what the result of the polls “really mean.”
A third lesson that should be learned is that we must change the way we conduct the voting and the election. People responded positively for the opportunity to vote on more than one day, during more than a half-day span of time. Mail-in votes, polls that are open several days, or even the ability to vote online in a safe and secure manner need to become a top priority.
Of the things about voting that need to be changed, pray the Electoral College is not one of them. Every election a movement to do away with the College becomes louder and stronger. The Electoral College was meant to protect Americans from being run over and disenfranchised. A steamroller like that can happen because of a majority, because of too many smaller special-interest groups, or due to the money and muscle of a political party. The founding fathers understood tyranny and it caused them to sail dangerous waters to escape it.
Finally, we need to remember there are some things that are more important than the election. Spokespeople for Jeopardy! announced Sunday afternoon that its beloved host passed away peacefully earlier in the morning surrounded by family and friends. Alex Trebek had been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer since March 2019. The legendary television host immediately started treatment, but never made plans to retire. He was 80 years of age.
Trebek battled the cancer for a full year, beating the effects of the treatments and in spite of a tremendous amount of pressure and depression. “The massive attacks of depression made me wonder if it was really worth fighting on,” he replied to questions. But he quickly added that to give up would be a betrayal to his wife, to God, and to other cancer patients.
Trebek had won six Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding game show host. In 2011 Trebek received a Peabody Award for “encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge.” Jeopardy! is the only game show after 1960 to be honored with such an award. He set a Guinness World record back in 2014 for most episodes of a game show hosted at 6,829. Just starting its 37th season, Trebek was at the helm for more than 8,200 episodes of “Jeopardy!”
Alex began his career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in 1961, delivering the news. Soon after he agreed to host a high school quiz show called “Reach for the Top.” The rest, as they say, is history. His career took him through “High Rollers,” “To Tell the Truth,” “Concentration” and even a brief fill-in for “Wheel of Fortune” when Chuck Woolery was host.
His first game show for U.S. audiences was “The Wizard of Odds” on NBC. Today, the odds of making it through a second year with pancreatic cancer is only 7%. Since Alex started hosting Jeopardy! in 1984, over 400 game shows have debuted and ended on television. Alex Trebek is a survivor, even though cancer claimed another victory.
From the Catbird Seat, his courage and strength provided us encouragement and enjoyment during the year of the pandemic and for decades before. “Who is Alex Trebek?”