This year has brought us no shortage of unique and pressing experiences that has shifted the way we operate as a society. From the COVID-19 global pandemic to political debates and civil unrest, this season has had many mentally drained, emotionally exhausted, and in search of anything that redirects their attention away from our current reality.
Many have opted out of participating in any political events, not because of their ignorance or disregard for civic duty, but for self-care.
Political climates, in this season of social unrest and during a pandemic has turned itself into an emotional wreck, distraction, or derailment of one’s mental health. While we normally advocate for the protection of our mental health by ignoring and removing those stressors, politics in this high-stake period simply cannot be ignored.
Voter fatigue, or the feeling of exhaustion surrounding voting practices, has increased as a result of both this election season’s importance and COVID-19’s isolative processes, which increase our exposure to media and keeps us virtually unable to ‘escape’ to other distractions we’re normally accustomed to using.
The commercials have intensified to replace door-to-door canvassing, the phone bank calls have nearly doubled, and escaping the political climate has become seemingly impossible. What seemed to be a clear and respectful dialogue regarding politics has shifted. The rules we once held about discussing politics in private has long disappeared.
It almost seems like discussing one’s political party is a requirement to confirm your moral compass for those around you. Civil conversation has twisted itself into more banter and unearned ‘expertise’ than was once provided or requested. In short, politics is not what it used to be, out loud anyway.
The exhaustion surrounding politics is even more intensified because we are experiencing miscarriages of justice during a highly intense political season. The pandemic has allowed a greater audience to view instances of police brutality, civil unrest, political indecencies, etc. It appears that the tornado of our American Government has landed in the heart of our country, destroying and dismantling everything around it. As voters, as a society, and as a people, many of us are drained.
Being consistently asked about politics, who we are voting for, what our position is on current events, deciphering the language, affect, and hidden language in speeches has become common conversation.
Group dinner dates turn into political debates within seconds, and a seemingly small conversation about politics can turn into a personal attack on character, values and parenting in ways that forever impact relationships. While politics does speak to one’s core values and interpretations of social values, current events and our feelings around it has made this round of politics feel darker, harsher, stronger.
As voters we are drained, consistently being asked who we are voting for, what policies drive our lifestyles, etc, with the clear expectation that we be so transparent with sections of our personal beliefs that we have never spoken so openly about it.
With this much soul shedding on a consistent basis and with equal amounts of stress over declaring our truths as the ultimate truths, our bodies take in more than can be handled. Voting and politics have now become trigger points, anxiety filled, and almost triggering to our past depressions and oppressions. This level of constant energy leaves us fatigued in ways that are unimaginable during an already anxiety and uncertain filled time period of a pandemic.
Voter fatigue, although unsettling, should be examined as the effects can have lasting effects beyond this election cycle.
Voter fatigue affects those who have historically voted as well as those who are currently voting aspirants. As advocates at new registration polling locations, it can be difficult to persuade new voters to register into the madness of politics.
Civic Education, once enticing to new voters, can seem disheartening as historical disadvantages, current disenfranchisements, and the clash between what we say about politics versus what we see implemented occurs right before our eyes.
Democracy in real time can be challenging to accept to those who are seeing our disenchantments, our fears, our heartache. Those advocating have a further uphill battle to sell the American Dream during what many are declaring as our greatest nightmares realized.
Civic engagement decreases in areas of voter fatigue, and ultimately, what we will see is poor output of new registrants, lowered turnout at the polls, less interest in our political systems, and ultimately, voter apathy.
Voter apathy comes at a price to our democracy, and we must be mindful that although so much is at stake, we have to provide a balance of passion with pockets of escape from the ongoing, incessant need to make our every move political.
While we know the weight of the upcoming election, we mustn’t used the weight to crush the hearts of Americans, dismantling the passion in hopes of pushing the agenda. We all have things to lose, but the amount of displaced anger, heightened fears and anxiety, and inability to regain ‘feel good’ moments at the same rate as tragic ones can leave us losing more than our elections this cycle.
We risk losing our hope. We risk losing our interest in democracy. We risk losing potential leaders who believe in the country’s ability to bounce back. Being drained is problematic.
So what happens when the restlessness and anxiety becomes overwhelming? Practice self-care. Shift your focus on other aspects of humanity that reinvigorate your desire to be a good citizen. Find other ways to engage our political system than the new normal.
Voter fatigue, just like any other fatigue, can only be diminished through rest, fueling one’s body, and exercising. To avoid losing our faith in it all and being crushed by the weight of our current state, we should become more intentional on resting our minds, fueling ourselves with other sources of physical and spiritual sustenance, and exercising our civic responsibility in other ways.
This well-rounded, holistic approach to our own self-care ensures that we not only make it to the polls and vote with a sound mind, but that we sustain the society which we are seeking to save through our casted vote. There would be no point in voting for whomever on election day, if we become so disenchanted by the race that we refuse to run any further.
Opinion contributor Ana White, of Harrisburg, is the owner of Way With Words Consulting Services, LLC., which specializes in diversity and inclusion professional development training. She also works in mental health services in the Harrisburg area. Her work appears biweekly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.