With just over four months to go until the USA Presidential election, the apocalyptic language has begun. Have you seen it? It can go like this: if my party/candidate doesn’t win the election, it will be the end of the world! Or the end of civilization as we know it! Or in more religious language the ‘judgement of God’ or even ‘Jesus will be returning on Nov. 4’ (the day after the election).
For many, their party losing will mean threatening to move to Canada, though that moving virtually never happens. It may mean staying away from social media or media of any kind for several days, at least until Facebook or Twitter or Instagram draws again. Family dinner conversations may need to steer away from politics, as they may even now. But life will go on.
Those of you not from the USA most likely have similar issues when your favored political party doesn’t win in your country either. It is a problem in any functioning democracy. There will be winners, and losers. I have a preference for who I want to win in November, but they might lose. Am I prepared for that? But of course I can go back to India, unlike most of you reading this that are from the USA.
I would like to give several tips on how to survive on Nov. 4 if your candidate/party loses.
1) Have the long view of history in mind, and the future to come
There have been 58 presidential elections in US history, this will be the 59th in November. Many of them have been very close, virtually all have had incendinary rhetoric and doomsday results promised if one side loses. Often the stakes have been for the continuing of civilization as we know it, or the ending. But one side loses, and the other wins. And life goes on. For two more years, until a congressional election happens. And then two more years until the next presidential election. Thus are the ways of democracies. Be grateful you are in one, and that you have that amazing privilege of voting. Not all the world is so lucky.
Being a student of history helps me to have a long perspective. There is indeed not much new under the sun, and certainly not many new insults and doomsday language. The armageddons have been proclaimed before, the anti-christs named. And still history goes on.
2) No matter which party wins, there will be hidden blessings and fruits.
It is of course hard to see in the agony of defeat come November, but even if your party loses opportunities will be there. Perhaps it will be looking more deeply at your party and why it lost. Perhaps building a stronger and wider coalition to gain victory in the next election. Perhaps seeing that your political or religious goals can be met in other ways, or in the other party. Defeat faced clearly has a way of teaching wisdom, once the initial shock is over. For people of faith like I am, we know that there is a God who is at work in whatever the result is. If we trust in His purposes, and even pray for the opposing winning candidate, there is hope for the future.
3) Work daily for the healing of a fractured country and world
I have read the work of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks for many years. He is the Chief Rabbi of London, and a voice of reason and inclusivity. Chief Rabbi Sacks is respected not only in the Jewish community, but also among Christians and Muslims. He is committed to peace and loving engagement among all faiths and non-faiths. I recently re-read his book, To Heal a Fractured World. (I also highly recommend his The Dignity of Difference).
In his book on healing a fractured world, he brings out the concept of chesed, a beautiful Hebrew word with many meanings including covenant love, or lovingkindness. Rabbi Sacks throughout the book details ways we can be involved in our broken world by showing love in actions. He also writes movingly of another Jewish concept, that of tikkun, or loving the world enough to repair or heal it. Combined with another Hebrew word olam, or the ‘concealing of eternity’, tikkun olam speaks in a mystical sense of our repairing of the world having overtones in eternity. It is not to be directly equated with social action, but can relate to the power of how redemptive acts, however small, having ripple effects that will continue on into eternity.
Even if our party or candidate loses the next election, we can still work towards that healing of our societies that we must be about. Ultimately it is not a political party or agenda that will bring the healing of a fractured world. It is many, many people doing many redemptive acts together that will have the needed impact. And the ripples will go on into eternity.
4) Let go of your trust in a political party to change the world
It is not the Democratic Party that is the answer. Or the Republicans, or the Greens, or the Libertarians. (or put your own country’s party names there). Yes, each has a platform or agenda that may most reflect your beliefs. But they may lose. And that should not stop us working to faithfully do redemptive acts with others that can result in healing and a better world. So if your candidate loses on Nov. 3, spend some time grieving the defeat. Then get up and stay involved in loving, praying, working, speaking for the things you are concerned about.
5) Be kind to others
If you are a Democrat, and you lose in November, be kind to Republicans. And of course the reverse. The opposing party are not monsters, even though some social media posts make you think so. They are human beings. They are not evil. They believe passionately in causes that are different than yours. Listen more deeply to them in the next months. It doesn’t mean you need to switch party affiliations. But you will understand more. And it will make you kinder.
6) Help us all out by not posting on social media on Nov. 4.
Especially if you lose, don’t post. But even if you win. Either calling the other side monsters if you lose, or gloating over your victory, are unbecoming attitudes. If you are a person of faith, trust that God is still at work. It is not doomsday, or armageddon. Life will go on. Even in the strange seasons of covid-19.
Nov. 4 will come. Your side will lose, or win. In that way it is a little like sports, but much higher stakes of course. It is never fun to lose. It can seem like the end of the world, but it is not. God is still in charge.
I am already working to live out these principles, in the four months ahead until Nov. 3.
Will you join me?