The end is near. Barring an electoral college rarity, on Tuesday there will be a new person elected to the office of President of the United States of America. Some will be elated. Some will be despondent. Some aren’t going to be happy if either front runner wins.
In fact, no matter who comes out ahead there will be a large portion of this country who will be disappointed, scared, or even angry. Up to half of those who vote (and technically even a little over half) will later find out their nominee was rejected by the nation.
Losing is not fun. Not in a foot race, not in Monopoly, and certainly not in something as important as a general election. It stings, it hurts. Some of the issues we are facing are quite contentious. Some of the decisions that will be made by the next president may impact us negatively. Losing carries not just pain, but a lot of potential anxiety as well.
So, what do we do if our candidate loses? I’m glad you asked. I have three suggestions.
We can start with acting like level-headed adults.
Sometimes my children don’t get what they want. Sometimes when they don’t get what they want they cross their arms and push out their bottom lip. They acquire a high-pitched moan in their voice. They pout.
But all the foot stomping and whining doesn’t change the fact that in our house we don’t eat Kit-Kats for breakfast (at least when the children are present). Pouting changes little to nothing, sometimes even making the situation worse. Fortunately, children are cute so we can usually smile at their little tantrums.
You and I are adults. And we aren’t all that cute. So if your preferred candidate isn’t elected, please don’t pout. Don’t whine. Don’t stomp your feet and declare “no one loves me.”
Maybe pouting isn’t your thing. Perhaps your response to losing is less like my children and more like George Brett. You charge the umpire, throw whatever you can grab, scream your head off, and must be restrained by multiple people.
Again, this response does not help anything. Reacting in anger may garner you some back slaps from like-minded people but it won’t make anyone change their mind on how they voted. It will just make you look like a sore loser and further convince people you’ve lost your mind.
Don’t lose influence or respect because you respond to losing like a child or lunatic. Take a breath. Count to 10. Bite your tongue. If you can’t do that, have a friend change your Facebook password for a week. Pick up yoga. Relax.
Which leads me to my next suggestion for the losing side: Take a step back.
Remember how talking heads told us Obama was the certain death of our nation? We survived. Some of us are better off, some of us are not, but we are still here.
We’ve survived Republicans and Democrats and we will again. Your preferred person not being elected is not the end of the world as we know it. (If this is the apocalypse I’ll buy you a shirt that says “Don’t blame me.”)
We need perspective. This is a four-year term. If we get it wrong, we can try again soon. People will be campaigning for 2020 by May.
We have these great checks and balances that help ensure electing a bad candidate won’t dissolve the republic. We can impeach, challenge, veto, block vetoes, and vote again in the years to come. We can go before courts to contest laws. We can elect a new Congress. We have a system strong enough to survive 44 flawed presidents thus far; I’m confident we can handle one more.
I understand you probably have some major concerns about what might happen if your candidate isn’t elected. I just want to remind you to take a step back and look at the whole picture.
Finally, let’s be good to each other.
This election has moved us further and further to the extremes. The venom and propaganda has reached a fever pitch. Let’s move away from that. Let’s move toward each other. Or at least let’s move forward together.
We won’t ever all agree, but we can do better. Imagine if we could disagree with each other with a modicum of respect and civility. Imagine if we didn’t call everyone who votes differently names. Imagine if we didn’t assume that the other side wants to ruin our lives. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not only one.
Let’s not assume the worst of the other half of the country. They are your neighbors, your friends, your fellow worshipers, your co-workers, your kids, maybe even your spouses. Are some of them misguided? Yep. Are some motivated by the wrong things? Probably. But let’s not put any more barriers between us. Let’s come together, lets share meals, lets learn from each other. Let’s be kind in our social media posts, let’s be careful with our words to the people we encounter, and let’s be considerate even in the way we think about the folks that disagree with us.
This is hard work. It doesn’t come naturally to many of us. Just because its difficult or unnatural doesn’t mean it’s not worth our time and effort. Just because everyone else around us has adopted hateful rhetoric or a doom and gloom outlook doesn’t mean we must do likewise.
After George W. Bush defeated Al Gore and the hanging chads had been recounted, I saw a shirt with his picture that read, “Not My President.” It bothered me then and it bothers me now. We have one country, diverse as she may be. Whoever wins will be the president of all of us: those who vote Trump or Clinton, those who vote Johnson and Stein and McMullin and Castle and even those who write in Jesus or Mickey Mouse.
We are in this together. You and I. Republicans and Democrats and Independents and the Amish. So if your side loses please act your age. Remember this is probably not the end of America and try to always be good to each other.
We might lose an election but maybe we can regain some decency. Maybe we can win at the stuff that matters the most. I think we can do it. I’m committed to try. I hope you’ll join me.
And if your candidate happens to win, please celebrate graciously. That is important too.