Posted by: Kate | November 11, 2008

A Different Sort of Healing

I wrote this on a message board populated by dear friends – only a handful of us, who have made it five years without a single catty argument or put-down.  We still haven’t crossed that line yet, but the bruises and sore spots from the election are still sensitive there, just like everywhere else.  And if it’s still worth talking about there, then it’s still worth talking about out in public, here, too.

This election was so, so hard. So polarizing, so intense, and – literally – so black and white. People imagined that there were these huge, fundamental differences between Obama and McCain, and they rode so, so heavily on those imagined differences. Things like taxes, immigration laws, trade policies, personal freedoms, government subsidies and programs, education… et cetera.  The media and the candidates themselves threw around these terms and pretended like, “Oh, look at me, I’m sooooooo different from the other guy.”

But the reality? The honest-to-God, real, actual state of affairs? They’re the same. Not 100%, not interchangeable, but McCain is a somewhat liberal Republican and Obama is a slightly conservative Democrat. They weren’t polar opposites. They weren’t pushing for radically different things. The four years with Obama in office WILL NOT be completely different than four years with McCain. There are differences between them, of course, but those differences are NOT as big as we’d like to pretend. Let’s remember that part of an election is making yourself stand out from the other guy, accentuating the differences so people will believe that the vote matters intensely. Now that the election is over, everyone can relax and become a little more moderate – in everything.

The truth is, the President’s identity doesn’t, all by itself, impact national or world economy. The President’s personal leanings don’t shape federal laws all by themselves. The Vice President’s priorities do not actually translate into policy or attention changes or better health care or education or spending.

Right now, everyone is still hurting and bleeding from the election. Those who supported Obama are hurting because the “other guys’ voters” aren’t immediately accepting their guy with open arms. Those who supported McCain are upset because it never feels good when your guy loses and because they truly believe the dichotomies and differences that the media and the candidates played up. Everyone’s upset because we all got caught up in the contentious mentality of an election and now we have to figure out how to let that fade.

There’s a reason why the Inauguration is three months later. The new guy needs training, but more importantly, we all need to let go of the election season. It took more than two years to build to the head of 11/4, and it will take at least a few more weeks before some of that eases off.

So, for what it’s worth, that’s my understanding of why people are so intense with it, why they’re so upset, still, now.  There’s a national grief process going on, and no healthy grieving process skips straight to acceptance.  We all need to go through the anger and denial and bargaining before we decide that we’re all going to be on the same team again.

It’s not really about why people voted the way they did – that’s why McCain supporters listing off their reasons why they don’t like Obama, or Obama supporters wondering how on earth anyone could possibly disagree, those approaches aren’t working.  The votes are past-tense and defending those past actions is a waste of time and energy, both because the past won’t change and because the other side is certainly no more likely to listen now than they were before the 4th.

It’s about letting go of the atmosphere of arguing that we lived in for so long. It will fade, honest. It always does.



  1. Very sensible response Kate. I have one friend in Texas who is absolutely seething. Her vitriole amazes me actually because she’s intelligent, well educated, financially comfortable but terrified that the US is going to turn into a communist nanny state which I find ludicrous. Both sides are incredibly conservative by our standards. And you’re also right in noting that there is more to government than it’s figurehead. I think he’ll do just fine. The world didn’t fall apart under Clinton and I doubt it will under Obama . . .

  2. I wish I could be so optimistic about the arguing ending soon. It seems like all we do as a country is fight with each other over who is right and who is wrong. It’s exhausting. I think I need to watch less CNN.

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