Now what do we do?
The election is finally behind us, and many are left with empty chunks of time. Those hours that had been dedicated to checking polls, watching speeches and arguing with your friends and family about who had the best debate performance have come to a merciful end.
We have all woken up with a serious political hangover and now we need to find our keys and start driving home to the real world.
I recently watched an interview with David McCullough, the author of Pulitzer-winning books on American political figures like John Adams and Harry Truman. He pointed out that despite the record amount of money spent on this election, there was really nothing of substance presented that would stand the test of time.
What qualifies as substance? According to McCullough it comes down to authenticity. A political candidate that says what he or she feels, without worrying about being popular, is a person who gets books written about them generations later. It’s sad to watch us all get so worked up into an emotional fervor during an election, only to be unable to recall who the losing candidate was eight years from now.
Don’t believe me? Try it. Here is the test: Give yourself 30 seconds to remember the Republican Candidate Bill Clinton beat to gain a second term in office. Now see how long it takes you to name Al Gore’s running mate in 2000. The anger and partisan in those elections were the same as today. But how quickly we forget.
Moving forward, let’s start using Facebook to bring people together. This election, the true battleground was on our social network pages where family members de-friended each other in droves as Election Day got closer.
In the past, political arguments ended once the family dinner was over and someone left early. These days, the battles raged for hours as we bantered online back and forth about the deficit, the auto industry, Libya, binders full of women and Clint Eastwood and his chair.
The goal now has to be to remember that before you were arguing politics with someone, you bonded with them in some way. Find that bond again. Use social media to make your friends and family laugh for a change.
Both Democrats and Republicans have senses of humor. Share funny photos and family recipes for a month or so. My personal tool of choice is cat videos. It is a fact that cat videos transcend race, politics, gender and sexual orientation.
Go outside and do something that does not involve guarding your yard sign. I am guilty of keeping mental notes of which neighbor supports which candidate. I have placed my own sign in the yard in elections past, just to have that sign stolen, leading to furious daydreams of rigging cameras to catch the culprit in action.
But this year, I backed off that emotional ledge. I focused on a new garden during the summer and eagerly put up my Halloween decorations as the weather chilled. I made a point to wave at my neighbors no matter what sign was in their yard.
Go back to freely wearing red and blue without worrying about the message you are sending. At some point in our political history, the color red was assigned the task of representing Republicans and the color blue got the job of promoting Democrats.
But we have to remind ourselves that the colors of our country are red, white, and blue. We all have diverse opinions and by letting ourselves be placed on one of two teams, we become mischaracterized and simplified.
Forgive. Today is a new day in the history of America and it is time to walk away from the rhetoric and get busy creating a stronger country. So no matter whether your candidate won or lost, leave your anger behind and move on.
In January, we will inaugurate our president and in two and a half years or so, we get to do this all over again. Enjoy the time off.