The heart of Democracy isn’t in the chosen — but in the choosing

I purposely wrote today’s editorial early Tuesday morning, before any results, acceptance speeches or other Election Night events could influence my thoughts. I wrote this with my community in mind, however far that reaches…


imageI’m writing this Tuesday morning, well before the final votes will be tallied and, quite possibly, contested by one side or the other in the days and weeks ahead.

As much as I’d like to believe Tuesday night will close the final chapter in a political season that
has played out more like a work of fiction than reality, my gut tells me there is already a sequel in the works to this poorly written chapter in American political history.

Yet, as I slipped my ballot into the drop box this morning, I thought of the poem “Election Day, November 1884” by Walt Whitman. In it, he eloquently expresses the simple but important notion that the act of voting is, in itself, more powerful than any individual elected within our Democracy.

The still small voice vibrating — America’s choosing day, the heart of it
not in the chosen, (but) the act itself the main — the quadriennial

In this era of social media coverage, on-demand soundbites and the constant barrage of political ads, posts and Tweets, it’s easy to forget the fundamental value our vote represents — and that the sum total of our Democracy is larger than any one individual. 

I have faith in our system of checks and balances, the Constitution, our
Bill of Rights and, most importantly, my fellow Americans’ right to choose a president.

Over the years, I’ve had my candidates win and I¹ve had them lose — some during the final elections and others well before. However, regardless of who was sworn in, I felt humbled being part of a process that began as notions and fervent scribbling by our forefathers nearly 250 years ago.

It was a system created to give a voice to its people. And while it
certainly isn’t perfect, even that is a reflection of our nation and its

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I don’t particularly care for either presidential candidate, neither of whom I honestly feel represents the best of the American people, their values or ideals. For me, filling out my ballot was like chosing between the the last two kids
waiting to be picked for the kickball team; one can kick and the other can catch, but I know whoever I choose is going to cost me some runs.

However, like kickball, our system of Democracy is based on the principle that we aren’t defined by one individual but by the voice ‹ and choice — of many.

By the time you read this, that choice will have been made. And regardless of who is sworn in on January 20th, I will support that choice — not as a Democrat, Republican or Independent.

I will support it as a fellow American who believes that the heart of Democracy doesn’t rest within the chosen, but within the hearts of those who do the choosing.

Following a political season that has, by design from both sides, steadily and deeply divided us all, I hope you’ll join me in moving forward as a people united by the belief in — and our respect for — the voice we share as Americans…

Election Day, November 1884

By Walt Whitman


If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,

It would not be you, Niagara; nor you, ye limitless prairies; 

Nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado; 

Nor you, Yosemite; nor Yellowstone, with all its geyser-loops ascending to the skies; 

Nor Oregon’s white cones; nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes; nor Mississippi’s stream:

This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name — the
still small voice vibrating — America’s choosing day, (The heart of it not in the chosen — the act itself the main, the
quadriennial choosing,)

The final ballot-shower from East to West — the paradox and con-
flict, the countless snow-flakes falling — (a swordless conflict, yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:)
the peaceful choice of all,

Or good or ill humanity — welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
 — foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify — while the
heart pants, life glows:

These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails…



Ned Hickson is a nationally syndicated humor columnist with News Media Corporation and the editor of Siuslaw News. He is also the author of Humor at the Speed of Life, a collection of more than a decade of humor columns; and Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist, a writer’s survival guide. Both are available from Port Hole Publishing.


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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

27 thoughts on “The heart of Democracy isn’t in the chosen — but in the choosing”

    1. I totally get it. However, as the editor of our community paper, I started thinking about this day last week and felt an obligation to offer some perspective. Hopefully, it can nudge us in the direction of some type of unity in the months ahead. We need that as a community and a nation to get through this.

      But don’t get me wrong, I spent most of last night with a drink in my hand. Another reason I wrote my editorial early!

  1. I still need to read (shame on me, as I love his writing) Philip K. Dick’s “The High Castle.” I hope we aren’t headed there. More likely, I suspect, we may be headed to events much like Nixon’s second term. Danger, danger schadenfreude ahead.

  2. I wish you and your countrymen (and women) all the best as you move forward, and congratulate you on practicing one of the greatest rights ever afforded society – the right to choose who leads you.

    1. I appreciate those well-wishes, my friend. It is truly a remarkable thing to participate in regardless of who wins or loses, and I have faith in our system of checks and balances to ensure that whoever leads us still ultimately answers to our nation and its people.

  3. As much as I deeply believe that coming together, inclusion, and unity are critical, as soon as I realized that Trump was going to win the presidency, I felt sick and wanted to “unfriend” a few people I know. The strange thing is, when I woke up yesterday, with the election over and done, I was eerily peaceful inside. Thanks for this beautiful piece.

    1. You’re more than welcome, Susan. I have to say, I think taking the time to write this before watching the results come in helped me reach that same kind of eery peace when it was all over Tuesday night.

  4. I’m totally for democracy and right to vote, especially after the Suffragette movement, but after Brexit over here and now your presidential election, I’m beginning to wonder! What a year…

  5. The Cubs won the World Series… something weird was bound to happen with the election. I am still stunned Trump won. I think what it boils down to was–his strategist was better than her’s. They knew who to target. He didn’t go with traditional information, he went with consumers and what they wanted. She underestimated him and over estimated the battleground states. That was a huge mistake. It is nothing short of amazing that he got MI, WI, Ohio and PA. I didn’t vote for either of them. Like you, I just didn’t care for the politics of either candidate and I wanted to be able to say “Don’t blame me, I didn’t put ____ in office!” Regardless of which one of them was elected.
    But now that we have a President-elect I do not understand the protests. They will change nothing! They won’t make Hillary the Pres-elect, they won’t make America better, they won’t change the obvious division of this country. You don’t have to respect Trump, but you should respect the office he will hold and pray for him and a better nation…..violence like this achieves NOTHING! 😦

No one is watching, I swear...

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