Election Survival Guide

2020-11-01

Every four years I dread the prospect of yet another election for president of the United States. What a depressing, anxiety-ridden spectacle! It's almost enough to make me a monarchist (if only we could find the right sort of monarch, of course).

As with everything else, 2020 is worse than usual. With every election season that passes, it appears that Americans of the partisan variety become even more tribalistic in their beliefs and emotions. Their attitude seems to be that above all we must keep those other bastards from gaining power because they're either closet fascists or closet communists. Those of us in the moderate middle (if you can call a libertarian gradualist like me a moderate) are caught in the crossfire uttering curses of "a plague on both your houses!"

In the spirit of Rudyard Kipling's advice to "keep your head when all about you are losing theirs", here are a few suggestions for making it through the impending election of 2020:

  1. Recognize Reality. Have you ever noticed that no matter who is elected president, the core functions and dysfunctions of American governance remain pretty much the same? Democrat or Republican, we still have 47 ineffective federal jobs programs, a broken system of legal immigration, endless farm subsidies, an unaccountable FISA court, an inscrutable tax code, tragically awful schools in the inner cities, a continually growing budget deficit, and so on ad infinitum. Just a thought: perhaps it really doesn't make that much of a difference who's elected.

  2. Concentrate on Continuity. Yes, the potential outcomes can seem bad, especially if you lean far in one direction or the other. Yet a corollary to the first point is that there is more continuity than change in American governance: we've had representative assemblies, trial by jury, and (mostly) the rule of law for 400 years. It's unlikely that we'll experience a radical break in these traditions at every level of government overnight (do you think that your city council or county courts will simply disappear?).

  3. Exit the Whirlwind. The outcome of all but the most local of elections is completely outside your span of control and influence. Why fret about something you can't change? Indeed, why deliberately subject yourself to extra fretting by paying attention to the partisan vitriol and useless chatter on TV, radio, and the Internet? Just let it go. In any case, you'll have to deal with whatever the consequences are, so it's better to stay mentally sharp and practically flexible if you want to thrive under the new regime.

  4. Heal Thyself. Politics is a disease from which only you can cure yourself. Just about everything in life (family, friends, health, community, work, love, art, science, culture, environment, philosophy, religion) is far more important than politics. By taking action in these domains, you'll experience much more fulfillment and you'll do something positive for the state of the world. Politics is almost always the problem; it's far superior to be part of the solution.

Unfortunately, elections happen. I wish you the best of luck in surviving this one!

(Cross-posted at philosopher.coach.)

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