Walt Whitman on Election Day: The Power of the Vote!

Hereʻs insight into the importance of by Americaʻs maverick genius visionary leader, the poet Walt Whitman.

Election Day, November, 1884

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara–nor you, ye limitless prairies–nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite–nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies,
appearing and disappearing,
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 stretch of North and South arous’d–sea-board and inland–Texas to Maine–the Prairie States–
Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West–the paradox and conflict,
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.

Ballot box, Circa 1884

From poets.org

“The still small voice vibrating, Americaʻs choosing day”

The greatest scene is not our countryʻs natural wonders, but the moment we gather together to vote — with all its “paradox and conflict,” “the peaceful choice of all” people together.

Whitman is one of our greatest writers, certainly the most original voice of American letters, with his wild, rambling, scrawling, passionate flow of words and images. He is also one of the most authentic poet leaders weʻve generated. I love that this poem praises voting over the wonders of Yosemite! VOTE, he says: THIS IS THE MOST POWERFUL VISTA IN AMERICA! The lines and lines of people, diverse, passionate, unique, moving towards the voting booth.

However flawed our democracy might be, however flawed we find our elected leaders, TODAY is the day we are most American. We raise our voice — no longer in paper (“countless snow flakes falling”) but in ballot machines.

So listen to Whitman, who embraces the whole complex experience of being an American, with all its challenges — and vote with your most alert mind, your most passionate hear. Vote, not just for yourself, not just because itʻs a fundamental right and hard-won, but for future generations. We are part of a long chain of voters who pushed past paradox to elect Lincoln, Jefferson, Kennedy… The chain moves through us, from the past to a future weʻre creating now. Letʻs make sure each voice is accurately, honestly, thoroughly counted today.


One comment

  1. You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.


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