By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index
It would be easy to make the case that elections make us all crazy.
It doesn’t help that election day is just a few days after Halloween.
After all, sugar-drenched, kid-energized, late-night, costumed in our fantasies and alter-egos, who isn’t thinking about our most basic of civic duties?
Halloween is also, of course, the setting for all-too-many horror flicks and legends.
It’s also the most dangerous day of the year (by far) for our children – not because of urban myths like drug-laced candies (or in 2022, “rainbow” fentanyl) but because of cars.
(Editors note: I worked with drug addicts for several years. Drugs are expensive and often difficult to find. The last thing any addict would do is give away any drug.)
In most of the country, certainly our region, late October and early November is time when our seasons change dramatically. In our case we went from a daily high in the 80s a few short weeks ago to barely passing 50 degrees. And from a drought to endless downpours.
And we just changed our clocks.
There’s also a full moon and total lunar eclipse.
Could we get ourselves any more unsettled?
Mix in our widely-discussed, much (over) analyzed political polarity and, of course, a ramped-up cynicism about our electoral process and continuing dispute about relatively recent election results, and you have the essential ingredients for an even more heated – and disturbing – reaction – no matter what the election results might be.
In an earlier era, we had political candidates who put the stability of our nation – and trust in its institutions – ahead of their individual pride and political ambitions.
Those days, and candidates of integrity, are apparently long gone.
And in their place we have candidates who actively campaign on distrust and suspicion.
Abraham Lincoln urged us to listen to our “better angels.”
These candidates urge us to listen to crazy conspiracy theories, as they profit from our ugliest, most cynical fears and impulses.
Got Post-Election Stress Disorder?
Post-election stress disorder is not something that is currently recognized by the statistical and diagnostic manual of mental disorders.
That could change as more and more of us identify with the symptoms.
Like an unexpected NFL or NBA reversal, this is a feeling of hopelessness, grief or dread that one might feel after the conclusion of a critical, if not defining, political election.
In previous eras, elections were about issues – about funding local schools or highways for example, but in the past few years, each election has become a forum for our identity, if not survival.
As you may have noticed, almost every campaign, and candidate, in the past few years has been breathlessly proclaimed as the ultimate “defining” issue or candidate.
“Saving” certain rights, or the economy or even America, has become the hallmark of almost every shrill campaign rally and attack ad.
No matter who “wins”, when the statements are so shrill – and the warnings are so dire – we all lose our shared identity and trust in the institutions so many of our forebears worked so hard to establish and protect.
With so many opposing values among so many of us, this is a condition that has become more and more widespread as we experience each new election cycle.
This is far from a purely American phenomenon. In Brazil’s recent election, the loser, while not officially conceding, acknowledged his supporters’ “indignation” and “sense of injustice”.
In the old days, (until about one presidential election ago) the losing party would moan and complain, and in most cases, would organize and reclaim political power.
And then the cycle would repeat.
But as the saying goes, that was then…
Blue wave or red tsunami?
Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, cable news, the internet, and social media have soaked the airwaves – and our thoughts – with fantasies of conspiracies, corruption and cabals who control the levers of government. We are told, in breathless rantings, that it is everyone except “We the people” who are in charge.
Somehow we have entered an era, not just of sore losers, but equally dissatisfied, if not enraged, winners.
In spite of the highly partisan cheering and demonizing, a “wave” of red or blue, for any length of time, is unlikely, if not impossible.
Many crucial races, even some in our state, are within a one percent range. The likelihood of a landslide in almost any race, on any topic or candidate become less probable with every election.
Hell hath no fury like a disappointed voter
If a part of what you are feeling is helplessness because the party that you do not support won an election, you might begin to feel better if you become politically active yourself.
You don’t need to run for office, but you can get involved with grass roots activism associated with issues you care about.
It doesn’t matter how old you are or if you are a registered voter. You can work to sign up voters for the next election, or make phone calls spreading awareness about issues that are going to be on local – or even not so local – ballots.
I’m sure we all know people who feel depressed because of politics or a recently concluded election.
Stress and anxiety have become, for too many of us, almost tangible around our election seasons. Fear and anxiety can lead to all kinds of health problems.
This cocktail of stress can contribute to conditions like heart palpitations, excessive sweating, the desire to overeat, an upset stomach, headaches, low energy, insomnia, and much more.
By being proactive about making the changes that you want to see, you can reduce your stress and anxiety.
Stress is not considered a mental illness; it is a natural and reasonable reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure, and any increased level of anxiety has a tangible impact on a person’s brain.
Stress can cause physical health symptoms such as headaches, aches and pains, muscle tension, digestive problems, or chest pain. Stress may also cause emotional issues such as fear, anxiety, or even anger.
Symptoms of anxiety to watch out for are feelings of restlessness, fatigue, irritability, worry, and being unable to concentrate.
And if you think this election was difficult, ugly and contentious, wait two years
We don’t live in a pure democracy where the person with the most votes wins. We live in a constitutional republic.
In presidential elections, each state is allocated a certain number of delegates to the electoral college based on population.
Whoever gets the most votes in that state is awarded all of that state’s delegates to the electoral college.
Those delegates in the electoral college are the ones who actually elect the president.
And if you don’t like the results of this election, remember that our political process is like a movie franchise with endless sequels. There is always another one coming.