Like many of you, I was devastated by Donald Trump’s surprising upset victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As I write this article on Inauguration Day (January 20, 2017), I can’t help but feel extremely apprehensive about what the next four years will bring.
One thing that’s certain is that it will be full of surprises. Sadly, I suspect that there will be far more unpleasant surprises than pleasant ones. We are now in uncharted territory.
But life goes on. You and I can choose whether we will be happy or stressed, depressed, and miserable for the next four years. I choose happy.
Looking back over the last year and a half of the campaign cycle, I realize that I expended far too many hours and far too much emotional energy on this election.
I checked FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s estimable polling analysis website which so accurately predicted the 2008 and 2012 elections and so dramatically failed in 2016 (along with most other polling sites), every day – often multiple times a day – hoping for the slightest uptick in Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. My day often got better or worse depending on how she was trending in the polls.
I was glued to CNN, Huffington Post, and other websites, hoping for positive information which would foretell a Clinton win, and hoping that each new appalling statement and embarrassing incident would be the one to seal Trump’s defeat.
Everywhere else I turned, from The Daily Show to Facebook to discussions with real people, the election consumed my attention. Those were countless hours I will never get back.
Since the election, I have resolved to reclaim my life. Life is too short. Life is too sweet.
I am simply not willing to endure four more years of allowing this kind of tasteless, appalling, gut-wrenching drama into my life. Life should be better than this, and it can be.
What’s different about Donald Trump’s presidency is that the drama is not going to end now that his term has officially begun. The inflammatory rhetoric, the petulant tweets, and the willful disregard for protocol, tact, and diplomacy will continue. Sad!
Every indication is that he intends to govern as if he is waging a permanent political campaign. The scandals and controversies will continue, and he will remain miraculously impenetrable.
He is not going to suddenly become “presidential.” He will continue to shoot off his mouth like a loose cannon, spouting semi-literate disorganized sentence fragments wherever there is a camera and a microphone. He will continue to be a crude, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic oaf who knows and cares little about actual governance. Sad!
He will always be concerned primarily about his ego, power, and wealth. He will always believe that he is our great savior and that the masses love him. Any information that indicates otherwise is rigged.
You and I can’t stop this. So far, the leaders of the Republican Party, the House and the Senate have been unable to stop him or tame him.
As the old expression goes, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. That 90% is what you and I can control.
I have already stopped checking in to the CNN and Huffington Post websites. (Yeah, I know, they aren’t the best places to get good, impartial, well-researched information.) The fare on most online “news” websites isn’t news you really need to know anyway – most of it is empty-calorie click-bait.
I am going on a news diet. I’m not advocating that you or I should stick our heads in the sand and become willfully uninformed. But most of what passes for “news” is simply not stuff that we need to know. I will do my best to let the important information will get through and filter out all the noise.
What we don’t need any longer is a daily dose of disgust. It only makes our lives sadder and doesn’t accomplish anything productive.
I’m scaling back on my Facebook usage. Those friends of mine who post mostly political stuff (especially stuff about Trump) have been un-followed. I won’t be posting anything political. I will be checking a couple times a day for private messages and event invitations, and that’s about it.
There’s only so much average citizens can do. Wallowing in angst and outrage will drag you down but will accomplish little of value. It will certainly have no impact on Donald Trump or Congress.
The most important thing you can do is vote. The House and Senate elections in 2018 will be crucial, because 2020 brings the once-a-decade opportunity to redraw congressional district lines. The 2020 presidential election, as well as the House and Senate elections, will be crucial. Your state legislature and gubernatorial elections are crucial.
You can volunteer for or donate to candidates you want to see in office.
You can write to or call your representatives. Beyond that, the day-to-day dealings of President Trump and Congress are out of your hands.
The sun will rise every morning for the next four years. What you make of each day is largely up to you. You can choose to contribute to the world in positive ways and enjoy your family, your friends, and your life. You can choose fulfilling, healthy, fun and relaxing activities. You can choose what positive and negative inputs you allow into your life. You can search out the beauty in the world.
I have every intention of doing so.
If you are as sick of partisan diatribe as I am (including diatribe I agree with), stop engaging in it.
To quote an excerpt from one of President Obama’s last messages to the American people:
All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.
I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.
And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’
Yes, we can.
The United States of America is still a great country. It is greater than Donald Trump and our Republican congress. They might damage it, but they can’t destroy it. Yes, damage will be done. Progress will be rolled back. LGBT people, women, and most minorities will suffer. Damage will be done to our allegiances with other nations and more wars could start. The economy might tank. Maybe he will paint the White House gold and mount giant TRUMP letters across the top. Hell, he might rename the country Trumpistan. Sad!
But the country will survive and recover. In my lifetime, this country has suffered through and recovered from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Vietnam War; the impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon; the Gulf War; the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01; crippling recessions; and the subsequent Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
The George W. Bush presidency was often inept, calamitous and disheartening, and I expect that Donald Trump’s will be even worse – but we will get through it.
We survived all of these things, and we will survive the next four years.
If you and I remain vigilant about filtering out the bullshit, rise about the negativity and despair, and remain focused on living our lives with positivity, good intention and love, we can thrive for the next four years.
Yes, we can.
© 2017 Dave Hughes