The Halftime Report endorsement

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The polling place on the North Fork of Short Creek in Ohio County, W.Va. was a fine place to cast a ballot. It was a 100-year-old Methodist church with groaning floorboards that announced your arrival for the poll workers before you were halfway across the floor.

Dim, dusty and sacred.

For what is Election Day but the highest holiday of the great civic religion of our republic? Slightly shuffling and self-conscious voters – a man getting off his shift at the landfill down the road, an old woman in a quilted housecoat and one young newspaper reporter – waited silently for their turn.

There, in that dignified but humble place, the miracle of the single most successful enterprise in human self-governance was present.

America leads the world by many measures. And surely one of them is in taking gifts for granted. And there at the top of the list of blessings seldom counted is that miracle: that for 227 years Americans have governed themselves and done so mostly with wisdom, temperance and justice.

It would be the envy of all the world if everyone in the world could even conceive of such a possibility. But for those who can dream of a place in which leaders peacefully step aside at the decision of the people – where the law, not men, rules – today is an amazement.

We have complained bitterly about this year’s election. And we no doubt have had cause. Promiscuous dishonesty, cruelty, fear mongering, hate, conspiracy and an arrogant disregard for the most important issues facing the nation.

We have watched the individuals and institutions tasked with keeping the republic – the parties, the candidates, the press, the justice system – fail to live up to their duties. Some of it has been just dereliction. Some of it has been intentional harm.

And for that, we all share some the blame. We have learned to settle for less when only the best should do. We have shrugged off corruption and cruelty within a system bought with the blood and toil of a dozen generations. We have all been unworthy of our heritage, even if only by standing silent in the face of the abuses of others.

But still, 2016 is a gift.

Americans are not free and secure because we are the most prosperous country in the world. We are prosperous because we are free and secure. The stability and adaptability of a system that tempers the demands of the masses with republican restraint but holds leaders accountable to the ultimate authority of the people has allowed the fullest flowering of human potential the world has ever seen.

And a system so free and stable depends on our great charter, but that charter rests squarely on the shoulders of the people. Our Constitution is worthless without a people virtuous enough to accept the responsibilities of freedom.

Much of what we see today doesn’t look very virtuous. Much of what we see reflects brokenness. In big cities and in rural America, we see and feel the unraveling. The old institutions seem unworthy of the challenges of today. Families, congregations, schools, businesses, civic organizations are losing ground in the battle to maintain a culture capable of liberty.

Stand in the pre-dawn fog outside of a methadone clinic in Appalachia and you know. Walk through packs of loitering, sulky young men in a big city and you know. Hear the desperation in the voices of the elderly in a rundown nursing home and you know.

America’s remarkable amount of social capital bought this freedom. But maybe we don’t have enough left in the bank to keep it.

But go back to that little church in West Virginia and see those voters in line. See them tread respectfully to the front to participate in this pageant.

See that same little miracle play out 100 million times today. In Manhattan high rises. In Texas barrios. In Kansas schoolhouses. Farmers voting before the sun rises. Factory workers voting after the sun has set. Parents with children covered in “I voted” stickers. Black voters born in states where they were barred from the ballot box.

Now that’s one helluva lot of social capital.

This campaign has reflected the very worst of a system that is failing to live up to its duty or the public trust. But this election is still a reflection of the best of us. The faithful actions of these tens of millions of Americans is an inherently hopeful and, yes, virtuous, thing.

It is reason enough to believe that some of what’s wrong may be put right if only because enough Americans still care enough to show up and demand better.

Fox News Halftime Report takes no editorial positions on candidates or policies. We’re just political meteorologists here to tell you which way the winds blow. But we’ve done all the prognostication we can. You know what the polls said. You know what the candidates did. It is, as they would say on the North Fork of Short Creek, all over but the shouting.

But we will take this one position: Election Day ought to be a federal holiday.

This should be a day of obligation and celebration when as many Americans as possible are given the chance to participate and to reflect on the rights with which they were endowed and to consider what kind of government is necessary to protect them.

And whether your preferred candidates win or loses today, thank you for showing your hope, courage and faithfulness by even showing up. And thank you also for your readership throughout this remarkable cycle.

Today is the day that America decides who will lead us through the next four years. And who better to lead you through the final hours of campaign 2016 than Fox News Channel? All your favorite Fox people are here beginning at 6 p.m. ET. Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier anchor the night as live results come in, while Bill Hemmer mans the electoral map and Martha MacCallum brings you the latest news. Our Fox Team Coverage will keep you updated of what’s happening with the candidates including, Mike Emanuel, Jennifer Griffin, Carl Cameron and John Roberts. And our field team is on the ground in the key states that will likely decide this presidential election, and the party majority in the Senate. We’ll be here all day and well into the night so tune in to see what America will decide at 6 p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel.

Following online? - We’ve got you covered there too! For the live tracking of the results in all the states, including the Senate and House races, follow us here where we will have live updates throughout the night.

So when do the polls close across the nation? Well, here are the final closing times for each state (All times Eastern): 7:00 p.m. - Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia // 7:30 p.m. - North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia // 8:00 p.m. - Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee // 8:30 p.m. - Arkansas // 9:00 p.m. - Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming // 10:00 p.m. - Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Utah // 11:00 p.m. - Idaho, Oregon, California, Hawaii and Washington // 1 a.m. - Alaska

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.