an open letter to the American people. (2016 edition.)

To: The American People.

From: Jeff Poling, Jr

We just got done with the longest job interview process EVER. Man, isn’t it good to have all that over with? Er…maybe not.

Y’all are flipping the heck out in both directions – the ladies on my feed are all pretty uncomfortable with Mr. Trump’s victory; and the closet Trump supporters are kinda upset they’re being called racists and bigots and that they’re assumed to not care about Muslims, LGBTQ, Hispanics, etc. I get it – I get it in both directions, honestly.

It’s a tough time. I talked to a bunch of people this morning – some of them gave exasperated sighs, some of them gave cynical shrugs of the shoulder, some of them said nothing, some of them laughed, some of them cried. Our country hurts like crazy right now – and I hate seeing that.

Nobody wins presidential elections anymore. Nobody wins because everybody’s all-or-nothing: if Hillary had won, the conservatives would have flipped out; and when Trump won, the liberals literally shed tears. It’s perfectly understandable why – in fact, I think it’s probably good that we feel how upsetting it is to lose. But (and I realize the bad timing of this message) if we never coalesce behind a president, how can we ever unify? I’m not saying that Trump is an inspiring figure (he hardly inspires me) but I do think that if we continue our partisan whining when we don’t win, we’ll never get ahead. Our country is deeply divided, and every time we bury our head further and further in the sand when we lose, we only make it worse.

I’m not suggesting we suddenly look at Trump as a knight in shining armor – he isn’t – I’m asking you to take a bit of a nuanced look at him. Do me a favor, do yourself a favor, and do our governmental setup a favor – pay attention to what he does. Pay attention to what he’s promised to do. Pay attention to what he’s able to get done, pay attention to the legislation he fights with congress about, pay attention to the speeches he makes, pay attention to what his policies do to the average American. This is gonna sound crazy, but – if he does something that helps our country, let’s celebrate that. If his lowering of taxes results in job growth and debt reduction, let’s applaud it. That means it works.

We have to stop looking at policy wins and losses as party wins and losses, and more as American wins and losses. And sometimes it’s a wash. I think ObamaCare, for instance, was great for some people who were unable to get medical coverage. I know people who benefitted from it. But I also know that there are people whose rates went up because of it, employers who lost a lot of money because of it, and jobs that were lost by it. It’s not all good, it’s not all bad. The GOP thinks its time for something new. Maybe it is – we’re gonna have to see what happens.

One of the best things we can do to destroy partisanship is to pay attention and stay informed of what’s happening. Use resources – there are podcasts out there, newspapers, congressional voting records, etc.

Listen, we have an obligation as voters. We are obligated to hold our leaders accountable, and it’s a chance we get every few years. If they don’t do a good job, if what they’re doing isn’t helpful, if they didn’t make good on their promises, we can vote them out. Do you realize that the government is designed to work for you? That means that when you wake up on January 21 or whenever Trump is sworn in, you are Donald Trump’s boss. Maybe that doesn’t feel like it means much, maybe you still feel threatened, maybe you still feel like the deck is stacked against you – but it’s thinking like that which perpetuates itself and creates a vicious cycle of misrepresentation in the government.

We need a movement of voter efficacy – where we recognize the power we have to elect, to support, to rebuke, and to replace our leaders. The government is designed to be for the people and by the people. It still works that way. You know, in 240 years as a country, we’ve never elected a dictator. We’ve never had an autocrat. In 240 years as a country, states have had the power to conduct elections as they see fit within a certain set of limitations. And, you know – if Trump did do something like try to assume some sort of absolute power, we have a congress and a Supreme Court to check and balance him. We’re gonna be just fine.

I understand the worry that everyone feels – I feel some of it too. But remember that if we respond to fear with fear, we give it power over us. If we respond to bitterness and negative sentiment with bitterness and negative sentiment, we further the fight. So – it’s hard to say outright that you should be entirely patient and gracious with president-elect Trump (after all, he’s a controversial character with pleeeeeeenty of clouds hanging over him) but I’m saying that if we predispose ourselves to hating him and his administration, we will encourage the same frustration that led to a Trump.

Start here: have conversations. Read the news. Talk about what’s happening with your friends. Bring them up to speed, and have them bring you up to speed. Celebrate the accomplishments of republicans and democrats in your city, your state legislature, the U.S. Congress, and then maybe, maybe, we’ll be able to separate political parties from judgements on moral quality and intellectual ability.

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”

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