Like me, you may be worried about the upcoming presidential election. You may be worried that President Trump will lead us into fascism. Or perhaps you’re afraid Joe Biden will cave into socialists.
These fears can be particularly troubling because there is so little we can do about them. Yes, we can vote (please do so!), but the marginal effect of one vote on the presidential election is pretty slim. Meaning, your vote isn’t going to change the direction of the election.
But, even if it did, even if your vote is the deciding vote in the deciding state of the election, you have no control over what happens next. Winning the election is no guarantee of results. Congress could block any progress. A 9/11 could happen. A pandemic could wipe out jobs.
More importantly, the day after the election you and I will be the same people. Your BLM-supporting neighbor isn’t going to suddenly put up a thin-blue-line flag if Trump is reelected. Your Trump-flag waving neighbor isn’t going to put up a rainbow flag because Biden wins. Police departments will have the same police. Low-wage jobs will have the same workers. You and I will still disagree on the same issues.
I’m not arguing that presidential policies and rhetoric don’t matter. But, I think we need to be prepared for November 4 and the reality that the election isn’t going to change everything.
Biden isn’t going to save us. Trump isn’t going to destroy us. Our president is, on some level, a symptom of the current state of the nation. We cannot heal the nation by voting alone. We can only build bridges by going ourselves to those in our neighborhood who are different than us. The biggest impact you and I can have on fixing our schools (police, roads, housing) is by local and state action.
I will reiterate one more time: I think this is probably the most important presidential election of my lifetime. But I still think that the way we talk to each other and the way we treat each other is far more important.
That can be an overwhelming thought, but I also think it is a hopeful one. It means that even if my vote doesn’t change the world, the actions I take can. If I want a more united America, then I can reach out to those around me of every political persuasion, every religion, every sexual orientation, every gender, every color. If I want a kinder America, I can be more kind. If I want a more patient America, I can be more patient.
The power is in my hands.