I Voted — Now What?
First of all: if you haven’t voted yet, drop what you’re doing and go do it. It’s that important. We even made a playlist for you while you stand in line.
But if you’ve already done your civic duty (and it looks like millions of us voted early in record numbers this year), then what else is there besides posting a photo of that “I Voted” sticker, and sitting back to watch the results come in?
Well, there’s a lot, actually.
We know that there’s an unprecedented amount of anxiety around this election. It seems like the stakes are higher than ever before. And while I admit that I probably say that line every four years, somehow it feels real this year, especially. Maybe it’s Covid. Maybe it’s protests and the police. Maybe it’s wildfires and climate change. Maybe it’s the Supreme Court. Maybe it’s immigration. Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s China and Russia. Maybe it’s, oh I don’t know, all of them together at the same time.
We also know that because of the early voting, the results of this election might not be clear for a while. And that’s not a sign of fraud or corruption — it’s just the system working as it should. Everyone’s vote should be counted, and that takes time, especially when the pandemic has disrupted our normal routines.
There’s a good chance we won’t know who won the presidency on Election Night this year.— NPR (@NPR) October 20, 2020
NPR’s Miles Parks explains why we need to reset our expectations — and avoid spreading misinformation this November. pic.twitter.com/U3GaFu0rog
High stakes mixed with uncertainty means tension and drama, which is unsettling. Even after we’ve cast our vote, the tension won’t ease until the results are clear. That could take some time. We’ve grown accustomed to knowing those results by the end of the night on election day, but that may not be possible this year.
In the meantime, we’re stuck with these feelings of anticipation and worry — what are we supposed to do with them?
We know that whatever we throw into that hole of anxiety won’t be enough to fill it up, so here are four virtues that can keep us grounded and get us through this dramatic election:
The first is patience. Acknowledge the anxiety you may be feeling, and then breathe deeply. We want to know what will happen now — but that’s unlikely, so we’ll just have to wait. We have no choice! Embrace the idea that results of this election may not be known for days, or even weeks, and recalibrate your expectations.
The second is detachment. You’ve made your voice heard, and there’s nothing more that’s within your power to do. You can’t control the outcome, so let it go.
The kind of detachment I’m talking about isn’t about washing your hands of the situation. It’s about putting things in perspective. We can still be invested in this election without being consumed by it if our priorities are clear.
This is where faith in God puts our lives in the right order — if God’s love is the foundation of our lives, then we’ve built our identities on something that will never fail. That love is solid ground for us to stand on — it allows us to be steady even when things are chaotic.
However capable of detachment you may feel right now, prayer can help. The simplest definition of prayer is simply raising your mind and heart to God, and any step we can take toward Him will be met with peace.
Third: intentional media consumption. The election is a high-earnings season for news media, so outlets are incentivized to keep you on the hook for the latest developments. It will be very easy for the coming weeks to turn into an endless rabbit hole of anxiety-ridden news. Don’t let yourself fall into it.
In fact, consider going on a media fast for the next day or more. In our day and age, the news has ways of finding you. You won’t miss out on any ground-shaking developments, and what’s lost if you learn about them a little later? Whatever happens will only be better understood by that point, and you’ll free up time and energy for things that actually bring you life, not drain it.
If you do decide to follow along with the news, media literacy will be especially crucial. Consider your sources and seek out balanced viewpoints. Take steps to learn what the other side of the issue is thinking. That’s not easy to do if you just take what’s coming to you — the algorithms that shape our feeds already know what we want to hear. So be intentional and thoughtful.
And perhaps refrain from adding your commentary to the fray. At this fever-pitched point, engaging in arguments on social media will not be likely to change anyone’s mind, and could very well only inflame things more. Follow reputable sources, look for consensus, and find ways to directly connect with the people closest to you for dialogue.
Lastly, take care of each other. We’re all worried about what will happen if the wheels fall off our democracy. That kind of anxiety and fear produces a lot of clicks (including the one that brought you here!), so the cycle of news is currently acting like a fan on flames.
But there’s an antidote to fear and division: solidarity. Division manifests as a perception long before any actions actually divide us from one another. So actively battle that perception by going out of your way to connect with others. Reach out with a text or note to check in personally. Knock on your neighbor’s door for a socially-distanced conversation. Bake some cookies to share. Shop for a food bank. Write a letter. Whatever it is, do something concrete that puts you in personal touch with someone else — make a connection.
Look, America: Our history books are filled with the accomplishments of this great nation, but what really sets us apart is what’s inside us — we’re resilient, hopeful people. So once you drop that ballot in the box, don’t retreat into the blue light of the TV in your basement. Now’s the time to be proactively thoughtful and faithful.
We have limited opportunities to influence politics at a national level, and this election is one of them. But now that you’ve cast your vote, your opportunity to speak to that circle has closed. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to do, however. We have smaller circles around us — neighbors, friends, family — and they need our influence, too. In fact, they might need us even more than they need these election results.
Now that we’ve shown up at the polling stations, let’s show up for one another.