Election angst gives way to hope
The presidential election is almost here. It’s hard to imagine that anyone in America is unhappy about that. In fact, I read last week that more than half of Americans, 52 percent, are stressed out by this election. Count me among the majority.
The night after the second debate I was so disturbed by the contentiousness between the candidates that I had a nightmare in which the two of them were shouting, disembodied heads, embroiled in a fearsome argument.
You’d think I would have learned my lesson and taken a step back from the media onslaught surrounding the election. Instead, I’ve fueled my own anxiety with an attention that borders on obsession.
Bookmarked on my computer are no less than five different political news sites. I follow many more on social media. And I check them all throughout the day — first thing in the morning, at lunch, and once again when I get home from work. Periodically, I sneak peeks at electoral map scenarios just to see if anything has changed.
But, at this point, I’ve spent enough nights cowering under my covers, agonizing over every bad thing that might happen to America’s future. I’ve decided to devote this column to listing some of the good that may have come out of this election.
• It’s been one great civics lesson: Ask me anything about the Electoral College. In the past, I found it somewhat confusing. Not anymore. I’ve studied electoral maps every day for months. I know which states are red, which are blue and which have the most electoral votes. And I fully understand why it matters. I’ve also gotten a pretty decent grasp on voter ID laws. It’s amazing what you can learn when you are fueled by election anxiety.
• It’s engaged the youth: And by youth I mostly mean my 18-yearold son who will be voting in his first election. He’s never been politically attentive, so I was surprised when he arrived home last weekend eager to share several YouTube videos that dissected each candidate’s stance on health care and tax plans. While I fret over daily polls, my son is studying the issues. Even Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight couldn’t have predicted that.
• I’m more informed about everything: When you subscribe to five different media sources and check them daily you stumble upon lots of interesting news from around the world. Sure plenty of it is bad news, but not all. How about those conjoined twins that were separated? Pretty inspiring, right?
• I’ve learned to be more responsible with social media: Not that I was ever contributing irresponsibly, but for a while I developed a habit of checking what was trending on Twitter. Don’t do this. If you want to maintain your faith in humanity, follow only people you trust or reputable sources. The political trending hash tags are no cure for election angst.
• The debates drew huge audiences: Apathetic we are not. We’ve all been lectured on the dangers of apathy, so I’ll count that as a good thing even as I dream of one day returning to a less engaged state.
• We’ve probably all learned a thing or two about tolerance: Oh, there’s no doubt this election is focused on intolerance, with discussions that are sometimes frightening about mass deportations, stop and frisk and sexual assault. But,
a ginormous political divide has split our country, and we all have neighbors, friends, relatives and coworkers standing on the opposite side. Do we think they are crazy? Maybe. Nevertheless, most of us have learned to be quietly tolerant. My own spouse
eggs me on some evenings by defending the opposing viewpoint. I don’t take the bait. I’ve seen political debates turn ugly. Besides, I know I’m the more informed person in our household. I’ve watched my son’s YouTube videos and he hasn’t.
• More people may vote: I hope the best thing to come out of this election is that it gets people out to vote. My oldest daughter
informed me that she had registered to vote for the first time after moving back to Pennsylvania several years ago. I hope we have a historic, recordbreaking turnout at the polls. Because our power as Americans is in our vote.
• It will all be over soon: Will things go back to normal once the election is over? I don’t think so. But we won’t have to watch a presidential debate for four years. And that right there feels like a brighter future for our country.