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What to do if your Candidate Loses

November 3 is Election Day. But it will likely be some time after Election Day before a winner is declared in the 2020 Presidential Election. Like everything else in this unprecedented year, most likely it will be contentious and one side or another will be unhappy. 

While lots of people will gleefully celebrate that their candidate won the election, millions of other Americans who cast their ballots will be far from happy. Dr. Todd Rogers, Ph.D. is a professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he applies behavioral science insights and methods to understand important social challenges and to develop interventions to mitigate them. His research shows that election losses can have a very real effect on the well-being of partisan voters.

If you are feeling overcome with emotion, it is completely normal under the circumstances. “My research shows that partisan loss is extremely intense,” says Rogers, “but people tend to habituate. Other research shows that the habituation comes faster than people expect. But it’s still intense.”

So, how do you speed along the healing? First, do not look at yourself as a loser. If you cast your ballot, you are not a loser! You participated in the American democratic process. The late civil rights leader John Lewis said in June 2019, “The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy.” 

As you move forward, you will probably run into those who are not the most gracious and will gloat about their candidate’s victory. You may find yourself in a situation—in person or on social media—where someone’s words are making you upset. If you can feel your throat closing up and your blood pressure rising, remove yourself from the situation. Do not engage in conversations that increase your distress. Take a break from social media if needed. Walk away from workplace water cooler conversations if you feel yourself getting distressed and try to limit your exposure to negativity.  

Think Local

Next, try to reflect on your ballot beyond the presidential election. Your choice for president may have lost, but what about the congressional candidate you voted for, the local issues for which you said yay or nay? Once you have taken stock of the whole picture, decide where to go from there. Remember, democracy is not something that only happens once every four years. Take your passion and put it towards positive action. Change does not have to come from the top down. We may not be able to write executive orders, but we can work together to make change in our local communities. Sometimes this can have just as profound an outcome.

Stay Informed

In two years there will be another election. We will be voting for our local delegates, senators, attorney general, comptroller, county executive, judges, sheriff, and governor, to name a few. These are the people who make decisions that can have a direct effect on your everyday life. They should not be dismissed as trivial just because they are not on the national level. 

A good place to start is by getting to know who is currently in office, the incumbents, as well as who the other candidates may be. Find out who your current elected officials are; in Maryland simply enter your address at mdelect.net

Stay informed about the legislative process. Hundreds of bills are introduced into the State Legislature each year. If a bill is coming up that you have strong feelings about, or you have a concern about something in your local community, contact your local representative. Let your voice be heard. Your elected officials work for you.

Think about the Children

Finally, your kids will learn from your example. This is the time to teach them that you don’t have to like the outcome to accept it. The time to look ahead is now. Peaceful options are the best choice. Share the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

—Joyce Heid

For more on handling the election, especially with our children, check our latest podcast with parenting expert Robbin McManne as we talk about how to talk politics with our kids.

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