As a general rule of thumb, I’ve tried to steer clear of politics in my blog (not always successfully). With the Presidential election behind us, it should be easy to stick to this. However, I find myself compelled to say something about the aftermath of the elections.
I am struck by how upset many people are with the election outcomes. In some cases, I knew that individuals were voicing support of a candidate that did not win. So expressions of disappointment were not surprising. However, within my social and professional circles, I have heard/read comments that go well beyond disappointment. There are dire forecasts of the end of our political system and the country as we know it. The news media is dissecting the campaigns, in many cases, struggling the find explanations and understanding. A collection of responses on the Huffington Post highlights the vastly differing opinions on the matter. (Conservatives Struggle To Explain How Mitt Romney Lost 2012 Presidential Election)
I find this both surprising and disturbing. It is surprising because the very nature of an election is that there will be winners and losers. That is a given. Nothing is guaranteed. We all knew that not every candidate would be a winner. It is disturbing also because of the lack of engagement in the messaging. This is evident in both the feelings expressed about the reasons for victories/loses and in the forecasts for the future. There seems to be a notion that the candidates winning in the election are solely responsible for the success or failure of the country and that those losing somehow did something wrong in their campaign that led to their demise.
If I remember correctly from 8th grade civics class, here in the U.S., we all have a hand in the direction of the country. It seems we have forgotten how to exercise our ability to play a role in the government. Sure, many people headed to the polls (or increasingly, mailed in their ballot). While that is important, I believe the greater responsibility involves talking with one another (and elected officials), sharing views, and seeking solutions.
I’m not referring to the heated political discussions most people avoid at family gatherings. I’m talking about the conversations with neighbors, discussions with other parents while waiting for the soccer game to start, or sharing stories with the book club. “There’s a fund-raising event for a classmate of Joey’s whose insurance company stopped paying for his chemo.” “My brother-in-law lost his job in manufacturing and can’t afford to get the training he needs to get into a new field.” “I’m helping take care of my aunt Sylvia because she can’t drive to her doctor’s appointments.”
These are the conversations that get people thinking, seeking solutions to everyday problems. These are the conversations that increase understanding of the sometimes complex issues we face. And these are the conversations that lead to active involvement in communities and ultimately, in the governing of the country. As part of democracy, this is a role that every ‘John Q. and Mia T. Citizen’ can take in shaping the future. Instead of complaining, celebrating, forecasting, or dissecting the election, we all can be stepping up and taking an active role in government, simply by talking to our friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues.