Election 2016: Moving Forward

(Warning: political post ahead)

Like many of my fellow Americans, I stayed up late tonight to watch the polling results for the 2016 General Election. As of my writing this, it appears that Donald Trump will win by a slight margin. The New York Times is predicting that the popular vote will go to Hillary Clinton, while Politico and the Wall Street Journal are showing the current popular vote is Trump’s by about 1 million.

Also like most of my fellow Americans, I turned to social media (in my case, these are Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit) to find how my friends are taking the results. About half of my friends are exulting in the victory of their candidate, while about half of my friends are dismayed at what they see to be the impending doom of the next four years. As someone who hated both candidates with a vengeance, I’m watching the fireworks from a somewhat distant perspective. While I’m glad Clinton isn’t president, I’m not thrilled with the prospects of a Trump presidency. (Had this election gone the other way, the prior sentence would have simply switched the placement of names.)

What is most interesting to me is the repetitive nature of elections–I suppose I was too young to notice it before, but being cognizant of four elections in my lifetime has lead me to believe a two key things are invariant. (I recognize I am quite young to be making such bold claims; it will be interesting to look back on this post in a few decades to see how my opinions have shifted.)

Firstly, every election is “too important” to vote for a third party. The nature of a two-party system lends itself towards the selection of candidates with increasingly extreme views; waiting “until it’s safe” to vote for a third party means you will never vote for that third party. This was an interesting year for the Libertarian party; while they didn’t reach their “5% popular vote” goal to gain federal funding, they certainly made strides in becoming a more socially acceptable choice for voters.

Secondly, whoever loses an election believes that the country is doomed. A lot of my fundamentalist friends were convinced that Obama beating McCain in the 2008 election would result in the death of religious freedom. When he was re-elected in 2012, the number of people on my Facebook feed talking about leaving the country and the perils of the future was stunning. There was talk of trying to get Texas to secede. Also, they blamed the third party for stealing needed votes from Romney. However, after this election, I am seeing my more liberal friends posting their fears that the United States will cease to exist as we know it. Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist-turned political commentator, wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times: “I don’t know how we go forward from here. Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible.” Twitter was rife with comparisons to Brexit. I saw a friend of mine post about recommending California secede from the Union, and I’ve seen multiple posts about how the popular vote should correspond to the electoral college. To add to the confusion, I’ve even seen some friends blame the Libertarian party for stealing votes from Clinton. I can’t help but notice the parallels between Republicans who lost in 2012 and 2008.

Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or third-party member, please remember that this too shall pass. Excessive revelry in victory doesn’t serve a positive purpose and neither does assuming the worst about the next four years. Don’t give up–whether you view this as a great leap forward or a frightening setback, there is much to be done to improve our country and we each have a role to play. Let’s seek to understand and respect each other as we attempt to rebuild trust and cooperation after a very divisive race.