Despite the fact that I’m now counting the hours until the election is officially over — election season has been *so long* and so incredibly divisive from all angles — I’m aware of the fact (and even somewhat excited by the fact) that no matter how it turns out, it’ll be one for the history books. The hope, of course, is that it’s one for the history books for the right reasons.
However, there’s a very disturbing trend I’ve seen here and there, both online and in interactions with various people, and that trend is this: if we can just make it to election day and choose The Right Candidates, we’ll be fine. All the wrong-thinking people will be shown the error of their ways during the next four years, the economy will be fixed, energy problems will be solved, and the world will be saved.
This, my friends, is magical thinking, and it’s precisely the sort of thinking that has led us to this point in history. It is the manifestation of the human wish for easy, single-solution problems and for immediate fixes. It is the failure of courage to realize that we’re in this for the long haul; if we really want to make a difference, we can’t just get riled up for a couple of months, go vote, and then go home and wait for everything to just suddenly get better. It is the ability to ignore or excusing the problems and deficiencies in Your Guys while fixating on those of the Other Guys. It is a failure of accountability and responsibility, the unwillingness to take meaningful action when confronted by broken promises and campaign lies.
Let me be clear, even though many will say that I’m being a defeatist: no single election will save the world, let alone America. There are too many people out there focused clearly on their goals (good or bad) who are willing to expend the type of energy and effort every day that some people have lately discovered in this election process. If you’re one of those people and you’re ready to step back down to a comfortable life after election day — you’re ready to end the last few months of reading and research and activism and just get back to “normal” — then here is my advice to you:
If you aren’t willing to sustain that level of energy and drive forward with it for at least the next four years — to check up on your elected officials and make sure that they’re doing the things they said they would, that they’re being the responsible leaders they claimed to be, that they’re working towards the ends that you put them in office to work for — then don’t vote to put them in office. In order to do the job you want them to do, they need your support not just to get into office, but to actually do the work. If you’re not going to be there to support them, that’s like pledging to a charity and never writing the check; it makes you feel good, but there’s no real impact to you.
America’s problems will not get fixed overnight. They will not get fixed during a single Presidential term. They will not magically go away. Now that you’re up off the sidelines, if you really want things to get better, you have to stay up and active. Your elected officials cannot and will not make the changes themselves; experience has shown us this time and time again, regardless of party or affiliation.
If you haven’t already, go vote. But when you vote, realize that this is just the start. You’re in this for the long haul. If you’re not prepared to make that commitment, you’re got some thinking to do.