On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, Americans will choose their leader and set the next course for the world’s only superpower. During an intense, closely fought campaign, relationships can fray, and voters can become caught up in the dire warnings and rhetoric of both political parties.
“No pressure” is the advice given in a statement from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Bryan Hatcher is director of Center Development and Education for CareNet at Wake Forest, and offered his expert advice.
Election season is like “your favorite sports team, March Madness,” he said. “I get pretty passionate and that can be a good thing. This is a very exciting time.”
Most commentators who speak of restoring civility or reducing the nation’s political divide advise partisans to talk to each other, to compromise, and to try to understand each other. According to Hatcher, sometimes it’s better to stay with your own tribe.
“It’s good to have a core group of people we can connect with, a community who feels the same,” he said. “At the same time, if we isolate ourselves we lose the richness.”
During a campaign, the often hyper-partisan media stream is magnified, as one side tries to build apprehension about what would happen to the country if the other side prevails. “Political fear is a huge tool that parties utilize,” Hatcher said.
He recommends laughing at it a little. “Fear, if we really let it take hold of us, it makes us stupid.” When political rhetoric “hits that spot” and triggers the fight-or-flight feeling, “it makes us do and say things we would not otherwise do.”
“Fear, if we really let it take hold of us, it makes us stupid.”
–Bryan Hatcher, director, Center Development and Education for CareNet
Some of those things include quarreling with neighbors, colleagues, friends, and relatives. “I have very dear friends I really disagree with,” said Hatcher. “It’s OK to listen to people. I just value the relationships now.”
Liberal Democrat Rosemary Glenn and conservative Republican Jim Glenn were married 56 years, until Jim passed away. The couple’s morning ritual was to drink coffee, read the paper, and argue about politics.
“They were real arguments. We didn’t spare each other,” Rosemary Glenn said. She added that though they often annoyed each other, they were certainly never bored.
In his 80s, Jim Glenn went blind, and the two went to the polls arm in arm on Election Day. “I could see the poll workers were thinking, look at that sweet elderly couple,” Mrs. Glenn said. One asked her in a cloying voice, “Now dear, would you like to help him vote?”
Jim Glenn interrupted. “Goodness no! We haven’t agreed in 50 years!”
Mrs. Glenn said she and her husband were always the same ethically, though they disagreed on politics. Their shared ethics were the real bond.
“I would have loved to have had Jim to blame things on” during this election campaign, said Glenn.
On the other hand, relationships can genuinely become toxic over these matters, and Hatcher says if they do it’s okay to walk away.
Under the barrage of electioneering, people are going to disagree, “but being overstressed—that we can manage,” he said.
The message seems to be when people live wisely in good times, they are more resilient in troubled times. “The reason Michael Jordan could do as well as he did under pressure was because he went to the gym every day,” said Hatcher.
With a “spiritual practice, an exercise program, good nutrition; when I hit tough times I already have the strength,” said Hatcher.
America has been through tough and divided times before, according to Hatcher. When feeling stressed, turn off the election or storm coverage “and turn on ‘I Love Lucy,’” he said.
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