For Walt Whitman, America’s beauty lies not in its rolling hills, but its polling booths. Over 100 years ago, the great American poet celebrated this momentous day of choosing with “Election Day, November, 1884.” The poem, which appears in an annex of Leaves of Grass, still resonates today as a reminder of the nation’s ideals of a peaceful democratic process.
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.
In the poem, Whitman praises not the person we elect but the “quadriennial choosing,” the act of voting. He did however hold strong political views and wrote the poem to commemorate the election of Grover Cleveland after a particularly mudslinging election. It’s worth keeping in mind that though he sings to the “still small voice vibrating,” the poet was ambivalent on abolition and the right for African-Americans to vote.