I still have the memory of waking up at 3 a.m. on November 8, 2016 with the TV blaring down the hallway. On it was Donald Trump giving his acceptance speech. It felt like I waited for eons to hear my first election called, and being awoken from a deep sleep to my worst nightmare was not what I expected when the night began.
The good news is that this jolt from dreams is unlikely to happen this year. Unfortunately, that is because we likely won’t know the election results until at least tomorrow, if not the end of next week. We may not know the election results until January. Many states will probably remain uncalled when we all stumble off to bed tonight, weary-eyed and still wringing our hands.
But let’s start over and take a long, deep breath.
I mean it. In fact, just for safety, we’ll do another one together. Breathe in: one, two, three. And out: one, two, three. Better? Probably not, but let’s walk through what’s going to happen tonight, and how we can get through this together.
First and foremost, remind yourself that it is okay that you won’t know the answer tonight. It’s happened before, and, each time, the United States has continued moving forward. It is even more okay that you don’t know the answer because that means our democracy is working. No one is rushing results because they want to be 100 percent certain when they announce the next president.
The good news is there will still be results from somewhere. Pay attention to every other race that happened throughout the United States today because we didn’t just elect a president. Look up the Senate races you know are close; see if Lindsey Graham lost his Senate seat to Jaime Harrison; check in on Amy McGrath to see if she pulled off the upset; find out if Sara Gideon knocked out Susan Collins.
I hope that the new makeup of the Senate is more representative of our country than ever before.
Second, recognize that there may be unrest in our country. This might be civil or uncivil, and it is more than okay to be fearful of this outcome. In fact, it is more than okay to worry and to find a way to leave city centers or make plans to stay indoors for extended periods.
However, it is also important to think about how you plan to join these protests or counter-protests to speak out in support of democracy. Don’t put yourself in danger, but set aside funds to donate to bails or emergency services if the need arises.
Third, and this might be most important, remember that the candidates do not get to declare victory. This is especially true for Trump. The president is not able to crown himself. Only the election officials who are certifying ballots and looking at hard data get to announce the president.
Even if (or when) there is no winner as the sun rises on November 4th, Trump does not get to say he won. Neither does Mitch McConnell. Nor Lindsey Graham, for that matter. They are not in charge of election results. Only officials, nonpartisan ones at that, are.
Lastly, realize that this election, no matter the results, did not come down to just you. If you called voters, worked on a campaign, donated, had tough conversations with family, canvassed, wrote about issues that mattered to you or posted on Instagram, you gave it your best shot. Hell, even if all you did was VOTE, you played your part in this election.
If this election doesn’t turn out as you expected and this is the first time you’ve voted for a president, know that the pain you feel deep in your chest is one I have already felt. It will hurt for a few days. It may hurt any time you go to the polls until the next presidential race. One day, though, it will go away. I can’t tell you how, only that it will.
If this election does turn out as you expected, do not stop fighting. This country still has a long way to go before we are a perfect place, and a singular president will not fix that.
Coulture’s mission statement says that we aim to be a magazine for people of all shapes and sizes, for those who speak up and stand out. We recognize that it is important to hear from people with personal views, strong perspectives, and something to say. This article is part of Coulture’s “What I’m Voting For” initiative where members write about the issues they care about in the 2020 election.