By Andy Jabbour
Elections are inherently divisive, and (if you listen to the rhetoric) each one is “the most important election of our lifetimes…” And they are important. In a free society, elections do matter and impact us and our future in numerous ways. It is understandable, even commendable, that so many Americans get passionate about our elections, candidates, and issues and that they take positions and action to advance their preferences. While we struggle to understand how or why one may hold a certain set of beliefs or be able to support one party or candidate over another, we should be able to respect that each one of us will see this election differently through our own lives, experiences, beliefs, priorities and needs. As there are many – here at home and overseas – that are purposely seeking to divide us and to see tensions escalate, we have all the more reason to stand together on November 4th, and however long it takes till we know who will be inaugurated in January, and to show that while there are a great many things that divide us, Americans will always peacefully respect our elections process (and then resume our political battles quickly thereafter!).
Through my work at Gate 15, I have the privilege to work alongside a team dedicated to our homeland security mission. Working closely across many communities, we process threats and risks all day to help organizations and individuals bolster their security and preparedness. We’ve been watching our election season closely and provide daily awareness on it in the SUN, our free daily online paper. Recently, I had the chance to speak with leaders at the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on elections security. Through that work, through those conversations, through the collaboration I get to enjoy with the security community each day, and through my love of country and our always frustrating but free elections, I’d like to offer a few thoughts.
- There have been and will continue to be attempts to attack our elections infrastructure.
- Our elections are secure and we can have confidence in the outcomes.
- It is very possible that we may not know the results as fast as we typically do, and we should be prepared for the possibility that accurate, conclusive results may take some time.
- Before, on, and after election day, agitators – both foreign and domestic – will seek to cause divisiveness, confusion, distrust, uncertainty and hostility among Americans.
- Most of these agitators and attackers do not expect to actually change election outcomes. Rather they seek to cause doubt in our democratic processes, both to weaken our system of government and society and to use that confusion to bolster their autocratic and thuggish regimes among their citizens.
- Here at home, some small percentage of Americans – something well less than half – will be truly excited about the winning candidates.
- Some small percentage will be genuinely angry about the results.
- Most Americans will accept the results, hope for the best, and continue to focus on the more immediate issues of family, work, and the rest of life.
- There will be out-of-proportion attention paid to the incidents that do occur – the ballots that didn’t get counted, the violence that does occur here and there, the threats from this corner or that corner. For some, that will lead to a higher level of anxiety than warranted.
- Social media will be divisive, confrontational, aggressive, and full of misinformation leading up to, and in the aftermath of, election night. This will be from passionate people, politicians and their surrogates, and domestic and foreign agitators.
- Absent some really unexpected issue, or an unprecedented delay in determining a winner of the presidential election, someone will be sworn in as the President of the United States on January 20th.
- As confusing and frustrating as things may seem from November 4th until then, life, and our nation, will carry on – just fine. Or, as COVID-19 fine as possible.
Among the most important things we can do, for our communities, for our posterity, and to counter the hostile wishes of some of those that would seek to divide us – both selfishly motivated U.S.-based threats (from all sides, and to include some in media and politics) and the malicious designs of countries like Russia, China and Iran – are to stand together as one nation, to respectfully manage our excitement and frustration, to minimize exacerbating tensions – at our dinner tables and on social media (maybe especially on social media…) – and to peacefully respect our elections process and the outcomes. We owe it to ourselves, our posterity, and our country to not let the very small minority of selfish interests and extremists, foreign troublemakers and others, to lead us to overstate the incidents that do occur, and to let divisiveness cause undue harm. America is at her best when we can show the world that we are one nation – united in our freedom, proud of our processes, and respectful of free and fair elections. On November 4th and always, let us stand together as Americans even as we continue to disagree, debate, and campaign in the future, and let us respect our elections process and the results as a testimony to our great country and this continuing American Experiment in freedom.