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I’m a worrier, and I’m worried

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In October, 2016, I fell ill with a major ailment, for the first time in my life, and I knew exactly what had brought it about: stress. All during that month, and the previous month, September, I’d been increasingly worried about the outcome of the upcoming presidential election.

Actually, “worried” is too mild a word. Terrified is more like it.

I knew that Hillary (of whom I was a big supporter) was leading in every poll. All of 2016, I’d been glued to the polls, especially Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, watching the tracking numbers as they widened or narrowed with each passing increment and incident over time. Hillary was never behind, but I had a bad feeling.

That dread grew with each tick of the clock towards election day. On Nov. 7, the day before the showdown, my nerves shot, I suddenly ended up in the hospital, my first time since fracturing my pelvis at the age of nine. The next day, election day itself, I underwent surgery. I was back in my room, recovering that evening, when I turned on the T.V. and learned, to my horror, that Hillary had lost.

The news did not really surprise me; my hunches are usually accurate. What did surprise me was how thoroughly the dread and stress of the campaign season had infiltrated the physical machinery of my body and brought it to this nadir. I remember the physically wrenching nausea I’d felt that September and October in much the same way I remembered fracturing my pelvis, from falling off a cliff onto a sidewalk. Both events were seared into the memory—into the hippocampus, as Dr. Ford might put it.

I have to be frank: it’s déja vu all over again. I’m feeling that dread concerning the upcoming Congressional elections. Yes, we’re all expecting a Blue Wave. But the Kavanaugh fiasco seems to have stiffened Republicans’ spines and energized them. Democrats too have been amazingly energized but there was clearly something demoralizing for them last week, and now that Kavanaugh is a full-fledged Justice, I sense Democrats taking to their beds to lick their wounds. That’s fine. You win some, you lose some, and then you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

Here’s what worries me the most: the generic Congressional tracking polls. They’re narrowing between Democrats and Republicans. As of Oct. 6, according to RealClearPolitics, Democrats have their smallest edge, 6.6 points, in quite a while. While the generic poll is a generalized (and therefore misleading) gauge—you need to look at specific races—it does suggest something happening in the electorate, and that “something” is exactly what made me so sick in November, 2016.

I also am bothered by my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I have thousands of “friends” and “followers” and as I check my feeds once or twice a day I’m struck by how many more pro-Trump posts there are than pro-Democratic posts. I suspect that some of these are fake, right out of Russia, with their stupid multiple images of American flags and MAGA hats. But still, there’s obviously an anger and energy among Republicans that matches that of us Democrats. It makes me worry.

Of course, Democrats remain overwhelmingly likely to do well in the House, but will they gain enough seats to retake the majority? And what does this tightening of the polls imply for the Senate? We’ll just have to wait and see, but for me the take home lesson is this: Don’t be discouraged. Never, ever give up hope. Rally, contribute to candidates and Democratic organizations, vote, and above all else do everything you can to ensure that those Millennials and Gen Z’ers vote!

This is actually a grave concern. A family member, who is active politically, told me of her frustration that her own grandchildren, all of whom are old enough to vote, probably will not do so. This mirrors the younger people I know here in Oakland, who just can’t be bothered. It is indeed frustrating. How does one convince another person to take elections seriously? They look around (and they live in their own echo chamber) and see only self-serving politicians, getting rich while the masses suffer. They see the two parties as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, two sides of the same coin, fraudulent mirror images, a game designed to fool and fleece us, and they want no part of it.

I know, and you know, Reader, that this isn’t so. Much of importance in our lives depends on who holds the power. In fact, in many respects our very lives themselves depend on who holds the power. Yet I cannot blame the young people for their cynicism. I get it; I understand it. But I hate it. And still there’s nothing I can do about it.

Maybe I’m fearful of shadows. I don’t know. I do know that it all comes down to mobilization. I will never comprehend how anyone who’s not insane can possibly vote Republican, but apparently, there are plenty of Americans who do. So we have to face the fact, sickening as it is, that the Blue Wave may not materialize. If it doesn’t, an empowered Trump may well feel triumphant, invulnerable. At the top of government, with no real opposition, he may feel himself free to act in ways which will be unprecedented, alarming and dangerous. Vote. Make sure everyone you know votes. Gird your loins, and prepare for battle!

 

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    “the younger people I know here in Oakland, who just can’t be bothered.”
    I’m always astonished at the low voter turnout in America; even in the elections where turnout is high by US standards, it still pales by the standards of other countries. I recall within the last year or so seeing photos of huge lines to vote in some poor African country. In the 45 or so years that I’ve been registered to vote, about the only times I didn’t were some local school budget special elections. I too am cynical about the way politics has evolved, but I still feel it’s important to vote.
    And like you, I am worried about what’s going to happen in November.

  2. I hope you’re working on the younger people you know to persuade them to get out and vote!

  3. Bob Rossi says:

    Most of the younger people I know are my nieces and nephews, and with the exception of those who are Canadian, they vote in the US and vote “the right way.” In fact, it was one of my nieces who prodded me to donate to the Obama campaign in 2012.

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