After the Election: Anxiety?
Three actions we can all take if the results are not what we hoped for
Historically, the party that holds the presidency loses the midterm elections. According to the American Presidency Project, in the 22 midterm elections held from 1937 to 2018, the president’s political party only gained in both the US House and the Senate two times and on average loses 28 house seats and four senate seats.
Oregon received national attention in 2022 for several of its election races and ballot measures. For the first time since 1987, a Republican candidate for governor had a real chance of being elected, which would have given this state’s historical Democratic party stronghold to the Republican Party. In addition, the newly drawn 6th congressional district that was originally forecasted to be primarily Democratic Party territory was in a close toss-up race. And CD 5 is teetering toward red. We had several local elections and ballot measures as well, including eight mayoral races, multiple county seats throughout Oregon, and local measures such as Portland’s Measure 26-22, which will restructure the city government.
News coverage and opinion polls show that the top five political issues in Oregon this fall were:
- Abortion (reproductive rights)
Each political party’s solutions to these issues not only vary but contrast significantly; their solutions are sometimes directly opposed. For example, the Republican candidate for governor Christine Drazan would not allow expansion of abortion rights in Oregon, whereas the Democratic candidate Tina Kotek has campaigned to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution.
Election anxiety is a known and studied occurrence for many voters during campaign season, especially when the issues have intimate and personal ramifications for individuals. These anxieties carry over even after the ballots are counted. The question is, after all the votes are cast and all the results are in, what do we do after the election if the results are not what we hoped for?
Here are three steps that can help Democrats manage election anxiety and find a path forward:
1. Acknowledge the situation: The first step to any type of change is to accept and admit the truth of the situation. For example, The Unites States Supreme Court struck down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that federally protected a woman’s right to abortion. That is what happened, whether you agree with it or not.
2. Educate yourself: The next step is to learn how we got here. For example, Donald Trump is not solely responsible for the appointment of six conservative justices, even though he has been able to capitalize on it. The court that we have now was decades in the making. It’s true that 14 of the last 18 Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican presidents, and they are appointed for life, giving the court a conservative lean since the 1970’s.
3. Act: When you know better, you do better. After you have educated yourself to the what, the where, the why, and the therefore, you can act. How can you as an average citizen get involved and directly act? The most direct way to getting your voice heard is to get involved with your local political party multdems.org. Become a political “influencer” by identifying who your county, state, and federally elected officials are (locate their most direct number or speak to an aide) and contact them. Do the research and become an expert on the issues you are reaching out to them for and learn what bills and legislation are currently being worked on in each level. A great place to start is www.usa.gov, where there is useful information state by state about how to contact your elected officials. You can even find information about how you can directly testify during committee and subcommittee meetings at the state legislative level. The point is to get active!
Let’s see these three steps implemented with the example of abortion rights:
- Acknowledging the Situation. Roe v. Wade was struck down in 2022 by the conservative leaning Supreme Sourt, taking away the federal protection for a woman’s right to abortion.
- Educate yourself (Why did this happen?) There have been many cases brought before the Supreme Court since the 1970’s to curb or outright ban abortion including: 1973 Doe v. Bolton (that was ruled on in the same day as Roe v. Wade); 1976 Planned Parenthood v. Danforth; 1980 Harris v. McRae; 1989 Webster v. Reproductive Health Services; 1990 Hodgson v. Minnesota; 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey; 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart; 2007 Gonzalez v. Carhart and Gonzalez v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America. And of course, the now infamous 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Therefore: It was only a matter of time that the conservative-leaning Supreme Court would make some type of ruling against abortion rights. Now that we have acknowledged the situation, educated ourselves to how it happened, we are ready to act.
- Act: Remember it took the right-to-life activists 49 years to finally get an effective ruling in their favor; it will take time and persistence from us to enact our own lasting influence.
Get active, get involved! Reach out to your local political party, reach out to your elected officials. Make sure your voice is heard, and support our democracy! VOTE!
Damien Grace (pen name) is a PCP and active with the Multnomah County Democrats Communications Committee.