Will the Center Hold on Election Day?

The Civic Circle
3 min readJul 16, 2020

By Eliza Newlin Carney

Visuals for Unsplash

Americans may have to wait days for final election results this year, election experts warn, as the pandemic drives voters to absentee ballots. Since Republicans favor in-person voting while Democrats are more inclined to vote absentee, President Trump may perform better on Election Day than in the days that follow, as mail-in votes are tallied.

All that has raised alarms about a crisis of public confidence in the election result, particularly given Trump’s recent attacks on mail-in voting. Recent primaries marred by long lines, lost absentee ballots and malfunctioning machines have intensified fears of an Election Day meltdown.

The one saving grace in all this, as I wrote recently in The Fulcrum, is that mail-in voting is broadly embraced within the GOP. For all the partisan disputes that have bogged down election administration, voting by mail has been one area of growing bipartisan agreement.

Prominent Republicans have increasingly scorned Trump’s baseless claims that absentee voting leads to “fraud” and “corruption,” and have pushed to expand voting by mail in red states as well as blue. Many correctly predict that barriers to voting by mail will drive GOP voters from the polls. If Trump does challenge the election on the basis of absentee ballots, he may find few Republicans in his corner. Read the whole Fulcrum story here.

HOPE AGAINST HOPE: It was a bittersweet July 4 for many Americans who gave up parades and family gatherings, and who struggled to reconcile our nation’s promise of liberty with the brutality and racial reckoning now spilling into our streets.

Yet for all that, a recent Pew Research poll found a surprising development when it surveyed Americans on the eve of the nation’s 244th birthday: An uptick of hope. As The Washington Post reported, “Americans have become somewhat more optimistic about the country’s future,” despite their fear and despair.

Frederick Douglass’s 1852 speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” was widely quoted this year, and many African Americans wondered openly what they had to celebrate. At the same time, multiracial street protests are fueling renewed faith in civic power. As Spence Spencer, an ex-State Department official who now runs an international nonprofit told The Post, recent protests are “a cause for hope, a reassertion that the American tradition of getting people to act on a matter of social justice is alive and well.” Read the whole story here.

WHAT DO WE TELL THE CHILDREN? American children of all ages have given up a lot this year, from school, camp, and college, to sports, travel, and visits with friends and relations. Yet the University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children sees it all as a teachable moment. Courage, resilience and how to be alone are some of the themes children are exploring in the center’s online programs, The New York Times reported. At another philosophy group in Turkey, one child found inspiration in a modern version of Homer’s Odyssey, which contained this timely lesson: “Your freedom will come from not being free.” Read the whole story here.

TO BE A CITIZEN: When I tell people about the seven “steps to democracy” at the heart of The Civic Circle’s program for kids, they often respond: “We could use something like that for adults.” Indeed, the civic skills at the heart of our program, which include respectful conversation (Listen!), media literacy (Learn!), and voting (Choose!), are essential for Americans of any age.

That’s one reason I’m excited to be participating in Citizen University’s Civic Saturday Fellowship this week. The Civic Saturdays (I will lead three following the fellowship) bring people together for what Citizen University Founder Eric Liu calls a civic analog to a faith gathering. The Saturdays bring the community together for connection and reflection with music, readings, poetry, discussion, and a civic “sermon.” While independent from my Civic Circle work, the Civic Saturdays that I convene in the coming months will extend a civic opportunity that adults have been asking for.

Eliza Newlin Carney is a journalist and founder of The Civic Circle.

This post was distributed via The Civic Circle’s newsletter, The Civic Voice. To sign up, please click HERE, or contact info@theciviccircle.org.



The Civic Circle

The Civic Circle is a nonprofit that uses music and the arts to inspire young students to understand and participate in democracy.