Politics is not where life happens

Change (or not), household chores and “the man that’s elected,” and 5 links to get your life back on track

I woke up last Wednesday morning and looked at my phone, realized there was no resolution to the presidential election, and did what many of you probably did. 

I groaned. 

And then, like a light bulb over my head, a verse from the song “Head Full of Doubt” by The Avett Brothers (my favorite band!) came to mind: 

And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

I’ll admit, my first thought was “That is some wishful thinking from idealistic hippies.” I started to return to the comfort and familiarity of anxiety about the election. But then I gave that verse a second thought.

What is really going to change when a winner is announced (and the lawsuits are settled)? 

Joe and Donald didn’t help with the laundry

As Wednesday turned into Thursday then Friday and there was no resolution, I focused on what was happening around me. Some people in my life wore out the “refresh” function on their web browsers, but most people I know just went about their business. 

Buildings were boarded up and there were tense protests in several places around the country, especially where voting was close. I don’t want to diminish the significance of that and what it represents in terms of the anger and frustration in our country.

For the most part, though, life went on as it had for the rest of 2020: I hugged my teenagers (when they let me or I snuck up on them), went to work, wondered whether I would be able to see family at the holidays, paid bills, drank a few beers with my best friend, and did the laundry. 

Donald Trump and Joe Biden only showed up when I chose to look at the news or heard someone talking about the election.

Now that he’s won, Joe Biden will have an impact on all kinds of policies. But he won’t be the only person who does, and some very wise people set up our system to ensure each branch of government checks the others and balances them out. 

Recalling the Avett Brothers’ advice, I resolved to “Decide what to be and go be it.”

“Don’t yell back”

Russ Roberts, our most recent podcast guest and host of EconTalk, made a great point during our conversation. He reminded me that “Politics is not where life happens.” No matter the election outcome, most of us will still have a good life, particularly compared to so many others around the world. 

We should worry about our neighbors who are having a tough time, and we need to think about how to support one another, regardless of how each of us cast our votes. As Russ put it, though, “most of us live in a country where there’s lots of life outside of Washington, D.C.” 

If we really want to have an impact on the world around us, here’s something he says we can do for one another: remember that anger gets in the way of learning and, very simply, “Don’t yell back.”

This week, in addition to listening to Russ’s wise words in our current podcast episode, check out our five links which offer some tips and encouragement to (as the song says) keep your life from being changed too much “by the man that’s elected.”

5 links worth your time

  1. How to Cope with Election Agony, The Atlantic – In his “How to Build a Life” column, Arthur Brooks offers advice on how to be a good winner or loser, post-election. In particular, he encourages you to focus on the local: “One person can’t change much of anything at the national level. But at the local level, you can actually make a significant difference by getting involved.”
  2. Regardless of election results, don’t look to Washington to solve problems, Hattiesburg American – Russ Latino reminds his fellow Mississippians that, “Whatever happens on Election Day, Mississippians still chart their own course.” He cautions against looking to Washington to solve problems and, instead, urges his neighbors to “roll up your sleeves” and fill the needs they see around them. 
  3. The Outrage Epidemic, Russ Roberts on Medium – As he does in this week’s episode of the Civil Squared Podcast, Russ reflects on the tribalism in our political landscape and encourages us to be more humble and “don’t ratchet up the rhetoric.” Consider spending “less time on the internet and more time with human beings.”
  4. Election’s over: Take down the signs and get a life, The Ledger (Lakeland, FL) – A political journalist offers a handy post-election timeline to get your life back on track. It’s time to uproot the yard signs and “reassess those bumper stickers.” 
  5. Why Electing Biden (or Trump) Won’t Settle Anything for Long, Reason – Not happy with the election outcome? Good news! Stanford political science professor Morris P. Fiorina says you don’t have to worry because the next election will probably shift power to the other side. You can go ahead and focus on other things because the odds are pretty good that you’ll like the results next time you go to the polls.

Photo by Halfpoint on Adobe Stock