Every 2 or 4 years, of course, we hold elections to choose who represents us in Washington. For many people, once it comes time to vote in the general election in November, the decision of whom to vote for is made long beforehand, based on deeply held beliefs, be it a passion for general conservative or liberal principles, or perhaps due to conviction one core issue or issues, such as being pro-life, against climate change, for lower taxes, or a strong desire to protect toe social safety net. In general, if your convictions are deeply held and align with a party’s core beliefs, it is fine to vote based on one or two issues that are party (and not candidate) dependent, make up your mind well in advance, and even try to convince as many other people as possible (hopefully using sound, logical arguments) to vote as you are planning to do.
For those of you who believe and behave as described above, which will likely be a decent percentage of the people reading this article, I am not asking you to change any of your actions or behaviors on election day, or in the days and weeks immediately preceding an election. What I am proposing, and what I believe is sorely needed now more than ever, is the following: once an election is over, for the many, many months (such as the time we’re in now, which I’ll refer for simplicity as ‘election down time’) until it’s time to start seriously thinking about the next election, we need to change the way we discourse about politics. Why? Because every day is not election day.
Of course, when your issue(s) come up in conversation or in a discussion of current events, by all means you should speak your mind and promote what you believe in. But if the topic of the day, or the discussion you find yourself in, is one that you don’t have a strong opinion on, are on the fence about, or you possibly don’t know all of the details, please keep an open mind, especially if you find yourself drawn to (or open to) an opinion that doesn’t align with the party of your core belief(s). If you’re pro-life, and are determined to base your vote on that, and it’s the day before an election, and someone brings up climate change, by all means, point out to them that it’s more important for you to vote pro-life than to vote based on climate change. But (for the same hypothetical person) let’s say it’s three months after the election (and thus 15 months before the next one), and the news of the day is related to climate change, and someone brings up that issue for discussion. If you don’t have a strong opinion on the issue, or don’t feel like discussing it, feel free to state that. But don’t try to shout them down or minimize the importance of what they are saying by trying to shift the discussion back to your issue. In short, during election down time, if an issue is being discussed, stick to the issue and don’t intentionally derail the conversation. Why? Because every day is not election day.
While this advice is applicable to all interpersonal communication, conversations, and discussions, I believe it is most needed in social media communication (Facebook, Twitter, and internet commentary), for two related reasons. First of all, now more than ever, we need time to breathe. Our days are stressful, our lives are stressful, election time van be stressful for those in politics and for those who follow politics closely. Just like we need the weekends to recover from the work week, or vacations to get away from the daily grind, we need election down time to get away from feeling like ever moment needs to be a constant fight for ‘our’ candidate or ‘our’ movement. And flowing from that, following this policy will help us not only listen to each other, treat each other nicer, but possibly bring us new perspectives on issues we didn’t previously think about, and maybe even learn and grow in the process. And that is sorely needed, now more than ever.