Postelection positivity is crucial to our recovery

It is easy to take on a negative mindset when your preferred candidate is not elected. The 2020 United States presidential race sparked intense feelings of animosity toward all candidates throughout the year. We focused on the potential negatives of what would happen if our preferred candidate did not win. As a result, we lost sight of what is most important. 

With the election behind us, we now need to focus on repairing the nation after an extremely traumatic year. Local elections are a first step. For those frustrated with the outcome of the presidential election, local government should also be a priority if you truly care about change.

The U.S. is currently in a vulnerable position. The elected president’s leadership will determine whether we recover or continue to suffer. This is scary and leads us to assume the worst. 

Young people are even beginning to lose faith in democracy. According to a 2020 study by the University of Cambridge, those born between 1981 and 1996 are more dissatisfied with democratic performance than both Generation X and baby boomers born from 1944 to 1981. 

It is unfortunate these young people have such a negative outlook on their own government. I worry this resentment will manifest as a decrease in voter turnout among young people. Many of my peers have developed the opinion that politics are too stressful, so they simply will not participate.

We are future educators and politicians who will be greatly impacted by our government’s decisions. Furthermore, under a democracy, the people govern the country. I feel as though we often forget how much power citizens have, given our ability to impact legislation through voting.

I also understand this negative outlook to an extent. For the past few years, political turmoil has greatly impacted our government, particularly during the past two presidential races. The 2016 and 2020 elections seemed more like a media frenzy than an opportunity to improve the state of the U.S. under new leadership. 

We cannot make the same mistakes we did following the 2016 election. We need to look at these next four years as a fresh start. Our government has new opportunities to make positive changes. These new beginnings should be met with hopefulness. Unfortunately, it seems as though voters are already planning to continue their negative mindsets following the election. 

A 2020 poll conducted by Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan public opinion polling group, suggests both supporters of Joe Biden and Donald Trump have little faith in the opposing candidate’s leadership.

According to the poll, most Biden and Trump supporters said if the other candidate wins, they will be concerned for the state of the U.S. They also believe the opposing candidate will cause lasting harm. About 90% of Biden supporters felt this way about Trump, while 89% of Trump supporters had the same opinion on Biden.

This is the state of U.S. politics right now. 

I understand frustration toward the opposing candidate. Obviously we wanted the candidate we voted for to lead the nation. However, it is counterproductive to carry this frustration on beyond the election. Your anger is not going to change election results. It is time to move on and focus on what we can change.

We now need to shift our focus to local government. Local votes impact our daily lives. State and local elections take place throughout the year. Midterm elections occur every two years. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives also elect every two years.We have these elections to look forward to. 

According to Rock the Vote, a nonprofit political advocacy organization, women’s suffrage, minimum wage, environmental protection and marriage equality policies all began locally and eventually reached the federal level. 

These are examples of the impact local voting has on our lives. Local elections need our attention. Now is the time to research local candidates and policies to be placed on upcoming ballots. 

Rock the Vote also stated only one in five voters participate in off-year local elections. This is proof that too many of us check out of voting when the presidential election is over. 

You cannot complain about who is elected as president if you fail to participate in local elections. If anything, local government becomes even more important under poor federal leadership.

The election results do not determine whether we can achieve success moving forward. We need to make a collective effort toward recovery. Take time over these next four years to vote locally, remain positive and explore new found opportunities. We will repeat the past four years if we make the same political mistakes.