With the heart and soul of America on the line, millions of Americans are poised for Tuesday’s midterm elections. Whether or not our candidate, political party or measure wins, loses or draws on Tuesday, one thing is for sure: we will all wake up Wednesday morning to start another day. Let’s take a moment to step back and think about “the day after,” starting with a few questions:
Will we have learned anything about the integrity, civility, and character — or lack thereof — of the leaders who have been put before us…or the actual consequences of our votes?
Will those of us who have been following hotly contested races in Georgia, Texas, Florida, and across our nation, contributing to campaigns, devotedly watching TV, hinging their hopes on the ever-changing polls be emotionally exhausted?
Has living in a political war zone during an uncivil war caused a widespread outbreak of what I call PFS – “Political Fatigue Syndrome” — across America?
Although the “winners” will be basking in the sunlight of victory and the losers will be feeling disappointment, if not despair, fearing for the future of America, we will all need time to recover. The well-being of our nation; and our ability to defuse contempt, find common ground, and build a better America depends on us being rested and ready to move forward.
Here are a few guidelines for recovering, recuperating, restoring and regenerating after the midterms, regardless of whether your side has won or lost:
- Take a much-needed break from all the rhetoric and the political world. Go for a nature walk, watch a funny movie, turn on soothing music, unplug from politics in general.
- Do not catastrophize! Granted, there are some very serious matters hanging in the balance. The character of our nation is being tested in unprecedented ways. Allowing yourself to imagine the worst (“The sky is falling!” and “This is the end of America”) and talking yourself into a state of panic isn’t going to help or change anything.
- Keep the faith. Yes, we’ve all now seen just how vulnerable America is. But, in addition to seeing how polarized and torn apart we are, we have seen the people of our nation arise, awaken, and come together. Calm down and reassure yourself that the elements of justice articulated in our Constitution will prevail.
- Vent your feelings and grieve your losses with trusted friends and confidantes.
- Defuse the hatred. Tone down the talk about “evildoers” and “enemies.” Rather than demonizing those who see things differently, being a sore loser or a gloating winner, do your best to listen, rebuild, repair, and restore understanding and trust in your relationships and community where this is possible.
- Continue to fight for/advocate/vote/champion/articulate what you believe America is. But do so with civility.
- Don’t waste your time engaging with people parading as “patriots” who only really want to fight and tear you down. Allowing yourself to get sucked into discussions, debates and/or situations with people whose only interest is to grandstand, spew vitriol and escalate conversations into shouting matches or violence is unproductive and dangerous.
- Strengthen your relationships with people from diverse backgrounds who are capable of building bridges of understanding, compassion, reconciliation, peace and progress.
- Give peace a chance. Rather than assuming everyone on the other side is “bad,” invite them to share their perspective and love of our country with you. Share yours with them. Most importantly, listen, stay humble and remain open minded. Try to find common ground and expand your understanding of how to best meet the challenges our nation is facing by working together.
- After you’ve taken a break, continue to support elected officials, members of the Free Press and your fellow citizens whose work strengthens, educates and enforces the honesty, accountability and civility that is essential to our democracy.
Our nation is, and will always be, a work in progress. We will forever be divided but that’s OK. The threat of becoming the worst version of ourselves will likely persist as will the opportunity to become our best.
As you brace for the mid-term elections, and prepare to vote, please acknowledge yourself for caring, taking responsibility as a citizen, standing up for the America you believe in and keeping the faith in our great nation at this painfully difficult time. May your words, actions, civility and recovery from the midterms keep you on the solution side of becoming the best version of yourself—and encouraging others to do the same.