I voted in my first presidential election in 1992. I remember that election season fondly because I went to a Ross Perot rally. I was 20 years old and didn’t know much about politics, but I liked the candidate – and the crowd there supporting him – so I knew he’d be the one to get my vote.
I also knew Ross Perot wouldn’t win… and I didn’t care.
All I did care about was voting the way I wanted. It never crossed my mind that a vote for Ross Perot would indirectly elect the candidate I was afraid to put in the White House. I figured Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush would be okay presidents, too.
That’s pretty much the mentality I’ve had about presidential elections ever since. I’ve passionately supported my candidates, but the prospect of the other guy winning has always felt acceptable to me.
The 2016 presidential election is a different story.
This year, I know who I’m voting for, but I’m not passionate about them. The only thing I am passionate about is making sure the other candidate does not win. And I don’t dare throw that vote away on a third-party candidate. I don’t even dare look too closely at a third-party nominee for fear I’ll really like them and second-guess myself.
The truth is, I’m pretty anxious about both major party candidates, and I’m not alone.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make 30 percent of us anxious, at least according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in June.
By political affiliation, this “double anxiety” as they call it breaks down like this:
- 40 percent of Republicans are anxious about both Clinton and Trump
- 16 percent of Democrats are anxious about both Clinton and Trump
- 37 percent of Independents are anxious about both Clinton and Trump
I don’t know how double anxiety will affect the decisions of other voters, but it’s the candidate who causes me the least anxiety whom I’ll be voting for in November.
Obsessing Over the News Cycle
I wish I could say being decided relieves some of the anxiety – at least I know what I’m going to do. On the contrary, it might be making my anxiety worse.
Every day I watch the news obsessively – checking cable news morning, noon, and night; and checking my Google news feed pretty much every hour.
What am I watching for?
Reassuring signs that the other candidate is losing ground and, equally important, that mine is not.
By the time I’m through a day’s news cycle, I feel like I know where things stand with both candidates – what a win for them would mean to me, the country, the world – and my decision is reaffirmed (some days on shakier ground than others).
This is the closest I can get to the certainty my anxiety is so desperate to feel before I let down my guard and allow myself to sleep.
But this relief is short-lived.
I wake up, check the news, and what I felt the night before is called into question by new stories casting a new light – or, more often, a shadow – on both sides. Bam! Anxiety renewed.
It’s hard to imagine feeling like this until Election Day, but I’m doing my best.
Getting Through It
I’m doing the usual things I do to minimize anxiety – yoga, meditation, journaling, and rest.
I’m turning off cable news when they start repeating stories. They might be interviewing a different talking head, but the headline is the same.
I’m also imagining the worst-case scenario. If the other candidate gets elected, we all have to live with the consequences. There are millions of other Americans who will be just as devastated as I am – wise leaders among them, whose lead I can follow. We won’t be able to change the outcome of the election, but we can choose a thoughtful response.
Meredith Simonds writes about anxiety at PlentyWoman.com.