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Important decision looms on our future

Upon taking the oath of office on Aug. 9, 1974, to become this nation’s 38th president, Gerald Ford declared that “our long national nightmare is over.”

Of course, he was referring to the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of Richard M. Nixon.

During the course of that scandal, it was revealed that Nixon and his aides had engaged in illegal activities during his re-election campaign and then attempted to cover up evidence of wrongdoing.

Unfortunately, despite pronouncements to the contrary, America’s current COVID-19 national nightmare is destined to continue indefinitely; it is not going to be “history” after the last of Tuesday’s votes are counted regardless of whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden is elected.

Consider what is happening in France regarding the coronavirus; consider what is happening in this country, where the case and death counts continue to rise by troubling proportions.

And that isn’t the full story; there are many other countries being impacted seriously by the virus.

Americans’ responsibility on Tuesday will be to decide which presidential candidate is better equipped to deal with the challenges ahead. Beyond that, voters here and across Pennsylvania will be tasked with the responsibility of deciding which state legislative candidates are best equipped to deal correctly with the challenges, not only those posed by the pandemic, but with the other important state business that the respective elected offices entail.

The new legislative session is likely to be more challenging than any in anyone’s memory.

In the final days leading up to a presidential election, it is common for newspapers and the electronic media to stress the importance of voting. That is as it should be, even this year, despite the heavy pre-Election Day in-person turnout in some states and the volume of mail-in ballots already received at county courthouses, including in Pennsylvania.

Indeed, no registered voter should pooh-pooh his or her role in this year’s election process or opt not to go to the polls because of frustration over that process or with the course of government in general — or the mistaken belief that his or her votes will not make a difference.

Pre-election editorials generally dwell on the election at hand and seldom devote much time to the days, weeks, months and years beyond, but Election 2020 must be different. There is much in Gerald Ford’s Aug. 9, 1974, inaugural speech that deserves contemplation now, 46 years later, with a medical crisis that shows no definitive prospect for ending anytime soon.

Beyond that, this country is fractured by division and hatred not experienced since the Civil War.

“Let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and of hate,” Ford told Americans as his presidency began.

Ford assumed the presidency under extraordinary circumstances — following the first resignation by a U.S. chief executive. He characterized the situation at that time as “an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.”

Yes, America continues to deal today with a national nightmare that troubles people’s minds and hurts hearts, but unlike Aug. 9, 1974, the kind of optimism that existed then is not present now.

Tuesday is a critical day, not only on the political front, but for America in its totality.

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