As the Tom Keifer song goes, you “don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” What hasn’t been canceled this summer? From festivals to performances, outdoor movies to parades, many of the annual rituals enjoyed by locals and visitors alike are off the table this year. And these events aren’t just a good time — they’re economic engines bringing people into town to eat, shop and explore. Meanwhile, escalating racial and political tensions echo back to the summer of ’68 — one of the most tumultuous times in U.S. history. Then, the backdrop was the Vietnam War; today it’s a pandemic. As they were 52 years ago, Americans are on edge and deeply philosophically divided.
At least there was no social media back in 1968. I think we have all come to realize that while Facebook, Twitter and other platforms can connect us, they can also tear us apart. A summer break from all of them may be in order.
As it was in 1968, this is also a presidential election year. Maine’s presidential primary has passed, but other federal, state and county primary races are set for July 14. Then comes November. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap says in-person voting is expected to proceed next month, probably with social distancing and hygiene measures in place. However, he urges Mainers to consider voting absentee by mail. We will second that advice. It’s easier than ever to vote absentee this year and more important than ever that voter participation is high.
In some contested primaries, party members will choose between candidates from the far left or far right and those who hew closer to the middle. The candidates who win a spot on the November ballot should be representative of as many Mainers as possible. Closed primaries mean the state’s many unenrolled registered voters don’t get to weigh in, but, at the very least, the primary victors should be decided by a healthy turnout from their own parties.
Officials elected this year will help guide us through the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic, its economic fallout and possible continued civil unrest. Huge revenue shortfalls are expected. Tough choices are inevitable. It is no time for voter apathy. So, while the rest of your summer calendar clears out, mark July 14 in red and don’t forget to vote — preferably early and by mail.
Who knows what else the summer of 2020 will bring, but renewed interest in democracy and civic participation would be a breath of fresh air.