I’m not looking forward to November 9th because I really can’t see a win scenario for November 8th. Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump becomes the next president elect doesn’t really matter to me and right now polls say Gary Johnson won’t win. I still think he could — all he needs is votes — but even if he wins, I don’t think any president can actually fix what is wrong with this country. There is too much wrong. A president with the right personality could possibly talk the Congress and even the Supreme Court into fixing a large part of them, but he or she can’t do it alone. That’s the beauty and the bitch of checks and balances.
So, how will you feel when you wake up on November 9th and either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is the next president-elect of the United States? Many of my friends are planning to be depressed. I think they probably won’t be for more than a day or three.
Most of us discount our ability to bounce back from hard times and cope with problems.
I read this cool paper Affective Forecasting, by psychologists Tim Wilson and Daniel Gilbert that foundpeople were much less impacted than they thought they would be by the 2000 election between Al Gore and George Bush. Bush supporters were far less happy than they thought they would be when Bush was elected while Gore’s supporters were far less unhappy than they had predicted they would be. Pretty much nobody moved to Canada.
Impact bias is the psychologists’ term for the human mind’s tendency to overestimate the emotional impact an event will have on us, either positively or negatively:
“A major reason we overestimate the impact of the things that will happen to us just around the bend is that we underestimate our own resilience. Most of us discount our ability to bounce back from hard times and cope with problems.” (Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth)
If you value liberty, the coming years are likely to be challenging. Sorry if you haven’t figured this out yet, but Clinton and Trump are both uber-statists who plan to reduce our liberty. We can all meet that challenge better by increasing our resiliency. The cool thing about resiliency is that its a fount of everlasting refreshment. It’s a renewable resource. Yeah, we might be low on resiliency at the moment, but we can get more. I think God gives it to me, but you can increase it for yourself.
Psychology’s “negative bias theory”, Winnifred Gallagher explains in her book Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life that “we pay more attention to unpleasant feelings such as fear, or anger and sadness because they’re simply more powerful than the agreeable sort.” We are biologically driven to pay more attention to negative rather than positive stimuli, but while our physical reflex is to flinch away from that which harms us, our emotional response is to grab it and hang on tight. No wonder we’re bleeding.
Bad news will roll in over the next four years because we’re likely to have either Clinton or Trump as president and even if we have Johnson by some miracle, he can’t work miracles and we’re in serious need of miracles right now. So, as the hard times come, it will be natural to have thoughts of freedom being lost for good, of the economy never recovering from the terrible economic policies that will come about, and to fear for our children and grandchildren who will have to live with the consequences.
We may experience angry thoughts of blame towards politicians who have allowed the principles that support liberty and prosperity to erode. It’s been going on for decades, but the current crop is making it worse and it’s hard to just accept it without protest.
We can have those thoughts, but we don’t have to allow those thoughts to control us. In fact, research shows that trying to suppress unwanted thoughts leads to more unwanted thoughts, so it’s normal, healthy to admit when we’re angry and to then move on from there.
We can look at the erosion of liberty, the looming economic disaster, the unethical behavior in the nation’s highest office through the lens of our emotions or through the lens of our values.
My emotions would like to be very negative now. I don’t see any good outcome ahead. But my values act like a beacon through that dark forest and I hope yours will too. Instead of endless focusing on the bad around us, lets focus instead on what we value and what we can do to protect those ideals until a better, more-liberty-minded time emerges after people finally wake up to the tyranny they’ve voted for.
Political realities may be unpleasant, but ultimately that has little to do with our moment by moment decision. Those are and should be driven by our values and it is those values and our conscious choice to live by them in the coming years that will determine the future of liberty.
Regardless of what the elite values, I value honest, accountability, responsibility and trustworthiness. I also value learning and faith. This isn’t the first “dark ages” in history and it won’t be the last. If we get trapped by our thinking about the political reality in which we are living, we begin to live our life based on our feelings and not on our values and principles.
Feelings can occupy our minds and demoralize us to where we can’t face life’s challenges, but feelings are transitory and unreliable. What’s more, rage can prevent us from teaching others anything of value. Yeah, those who don’t understand what liberty really means are annoying. After election day you will encounter colleagues, friends, and family members who are happy about the results. Most of these people are not stupid or on the government’s payroll. Some of the people we criticize for their political views may be more responsible, more productive, and happier than we are. You can silently or publicly berate them, or you can take another path. You can be curious about the beliefs that drive how they see the world. Your respectful curiosity will help you be a more effective communicator of your own ideas.
Everyone interprets the events of life differently. That’s normal. As we truly listen to others with respect for their right to hold an opinion, others are more likely to listen to us. Everyone thinks they see the world logically, that their view is reality. If you become a student of the beliefs of other people, they become more willing to entertain your reasons for believing differently and to, perhaps, change their minds.
It’s in the American DNA to believe that everyone has the potential to lead a responsible, happy life. Right now, there are a lot of folks who seem not to understand the principles that promote liberty and prosperity, but by remaining positive in the face of adversity and respectful of the rights of others, you may be able to play a role in helping them understand those principles tomorrow.