Democracy in Action

Greg Gnall
3 min readOct 28, 2020

I drove through the Great Swamp yesterday. No, not Washington D.C., but a wildlife refuge in central New Jersey, in an area of great natural beauty that those whose only glimpse of the state consists of the oil rigs and belching smoke on the New Jersey Turnpike could scarcely believe. Okay, so the name sounds like a bad joke about a much maligned state, but Garden Staters are not inclined towards euphemism and, despite having practically invented political corruption and mob influence, typically call something exactly what it is. And how appropriate that the Great Swamp sits only about 10 miles from Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster and near Harding Township, named after a president who used to personify moral failure and corruption, but would be considered a piker compared to the current incumbent.

As we near the end of four years of chaotic Trumpian rule, under a president that promised to “drain the swamp,” we have seen nothing but an unprecedented level of corruption that is comprised of a president who: puts his self-serving business interests first, cut out the middlemen by appointing an astounding number of rapacious corporate lobbyists to actually run it, used nepotism to anoint his daughter and son-in-law, Juan and Eva Peron wannabes, as “senior advisers,” and has relied on his “successful” business career to avoid taxes through billion dollar losses and both legal but ethically questionable and illegal use of the tax code that have allowed him to pay less in taxes than your manicurist or doorman.

No one needs to make the case at this time that Trump has to go, because he has made the case for his own incompetence over and over, not least in his denial policy to the “Chinese virus” that is still rampaging across the country. But, as questions linger about past and ongoing Russian influence on our election process, it is ironic that we should look to that country as an example of how we can repair our democratic traditions.

In the tiny village of Povalikhino, the incumbent mayor, in true Putin-like fashion, was looking for a patsy to oppose him in his reelection campaign. He found such an opponent in Marina Udgodskaya, who cleans city hall. However, it didn’t go as planned as Ms. Udgodskaya actually won. Her first order of business is to install much-needed street lights in the village, which is greater by degree than the imminent infrastructure plan Trump promised us four years ago.

So, what lesson can we learn? It’s tempting to say that even a lowly janitor would be a better option than Trump, and we would almost certainly be right. But while the choice for America should be clear by now, as Ms. Udgodskaya remarked: “[y]ou shouldn’t expect anything in an election.”

This country has been remarkably resilient through times of crisis and is still the foremost example of a vibrant democracy. And, despite the claims of fraudulent voting, the efforts to suppress the votes of the apparent opposition and the shameless efforts to stock the judiciary with sympathetic judges, we the people still own the ultimate power of the vote, just as they did in Povalikhino. Despite our justifiable cynicism, 66 million voters have already cast their ballots. Follow their lead and vote early. Make sure you make your vote count. It is only the future of our democracy at stake.