A Question for Election Day

Today is Election Day in the United States. To say it is more politically charged than any election in my lifetime is an understatement. I can see one of two broad outcomes for how it will go. Either the results will be so overwhelmingly in favor of one candidate that the outcome is undeniable, or the race is too close to call and the remainder of the month is filled with outrage, sensational news coverage, and exhausting malaise as all the tallies are added, disputed, lied about and argued over. In either case, there’s an important question that we need to deal with. It’s not about who wins. Instead we have to ask, who loses?

Unfortunately, the answer is simple, obvious, and not especially hopeful. Everyone loses. All of us. Even those who think that their side won. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • We lose because we believe there are sides.
  • We lose because we think that we must vanquish the enemy.
  • We lose because we’ve allowed our fellow citizens to become that enemy.
  • We lose because the stakes should never feel this high.
  • We lose because we are distracted from what matters.
  • We lose because we buy into the flawed narratives of a two-party system.
  • We lose because the incentives of the system are aligned against the outcomes we want.
  • We lose because there’s money to be made on our outrage.
  • We lose because our involvement ends at a button click.
  • We lose because trolling is easier than empathy and understanding nuance.
  • We lose because we believe things are falling apart.
  • We lose because overcoming our fear is harder than understanding our humanity.
  • We lose because we think that those who disagree with us can’t help us make things better.
  • We lose because we think ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ are by default insults.
  • We lose because we don’t have a shared reality or any interest in common ground.
  • We lose because we forget that democracy requires good faith participation and compromise.
  • We lose because we believe systems shouldn’t evolve.
  • We lose because we believe history has nothing to teach us.
  • We lose because we forget what our technological tools are for.
  • We lose because we allow our identities to be defined for us.
  • We lose because we refuse to listen.
  • We lose because we refuse to do the work.

Ultimately, we lose because we choose to. We the People have allowed this to happen. We the People favor our tribe over our aspirations. We the People tolerate hypocrisy, lies, cowardice, and political theater instead of demanding better. We the People have become fractured, lazy, entitled and far too comfortable with the status quo. We the People can change things, but only by not settling for the results we’ve gotten before. We the People founded a republic. We the People are the only ones that can choose to save it or to lose it.

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