Headline: Geert Wilders shocks Europe with far-right populist victory
My Brain: Oh no! It’s 2015 Brexit / 2016 Trump all over again!
Headline: Polish election ousts far right ruler
My Brain: Whew! These Putin/Orban/Trump strongmen are going down. Portends well for our 2024 election.
Headline: Argentina elects home-grown Trump clone in landslide
My Brain: F***!! It’s another xenophobic populist wave. We’re gonna end up with Trump again and then we’ll all be talking about how people ignored all the warning signs!
Headline: Dems roll to victory in Virginia, Kentucky, and in Ohio with ballot measure
My Brain: Hell yeah! Forget what the broken polls are saying. Dems keep overperforming in the off-year elections and are going to crush it in 2024!
Headline: Biden’s advisors worry he’s not taking polling warning signs seriously
My Brain: F***!! What if all the reassurances that polling at this point is worthless are just wishful thinking? What if we’re seeing the 2024 outcome right now, and we’re heading into “Trump 2.0 - The Death of American Democracy”?
Headline: Dems flip key county board in rural PA
My Brain: Between this news and the statewide results in my state, Biden’s looking solid for PA in ‘24. And if Biden’s winning PA, he’s probably winning MI, WI, and MN, and that’s the ballgame folks - that’s 270 electoral votes even without GA, AZ, or NV.
Headline: Black and Gen Z voters souring on Biden
My Brain: F***!! Biden can’t win without them! We’re doomed.
Headline: Marking a year since Lula defeated Bolsonaro in Brazil
My Brain: Mmm hmm, that’s right! Let’s not forget that huge election in which Brazilian voters ousted their own Trump loudmouth authoritarian. RW populism is losing its luster all across the world. Biden’s gonna crush Trump, and then the press will be like “wow, nobody saw it coming!” Just like the “red wave” of ‘22 that DID NOT HAPPEN like you media pundits predicted. Assholes.
Headline: Rightwing populist polling far ahead of Trudeau in Canada
My Brain: What? Wait, let me check something… WTF? That election is not until October 2025! Oh, but then again, that’s only if the government doesn’t fall before then. Parliamentary system. Shit shit shit shit shit. RW populist on the rise in Canada? That’s right next door to us! We’re f****d!
Headline: More damaging testimony against Trump in NY trial, as 2024 headaches await him in multiple courtrooms
My Brain: Trump is going to get more and more toxic over the next year. He’ll probably be convicted of at least one crime before the election. And the media is going to end up revisiting the horrors of Jan 6 in the testimony, and MAGA’s brand just keeps getting crazier while the House GOP shows everybody how they can’t govern and are rabid extremists. Shoot, a convicted Trump might not get the GOP nomination, and then maybe he runs as an independent and Biden coasts to like 500 electoral votes in an anxiety-free election season for me. Oh please God please!
Headline: Despite Trump’s legal woes and high unfavorables, he bests Biden in multiple polls including swing states
My Brain: What if this is just who our country is? We’re a country ready to vote this dangerous narcissist back into power, that’s just who we are — who a majority of us are, or at least a majority in enough states to win in our stupid electoral college system? What if there’s nothing I can do about it. I feel like I can’t breathe right. Oh God…
Headline: October inflation rate at zero, gas prices down, stock market up, jobs growing
My Brain: Yeah baby! If this keeps on getting better, little by little, chunk by chunk, all the way until next fall, Biden’s gonna coast to easy victory. His secret weapon is Bidenomics. It’s working, step by step, over time, and that’s gonna win a buttload of swing voters. The media will catch up to the story after it has already taken hold among the public, quietly, without fanfare, the cumulative result of a long-game strategy Biden has implemented with remarkable skill. And to think, he got the laws needed to do it all with a tiny House majority and a 50-50 senate. He’s seriously Dark Brandon. He’s the Columbo of politics. I f*****’ love it.
Anna: Good Lord, these are some crazy times.
Anna: (shaking her head) Mmm hmm… We just gotta pray and get through it.
Me: I know. I mean, between the wars going on, the climate falling apart, and millions of our fellow citizens still believing all kinds of crazy conspiracies —
Anna: No, I mean this crappy economy. I just took my daughter to the grocery store to help her out, and we picked up a few things, and I saw the bill, and I was like, ‘What did I just buy?’ It’s out of control.
My Brain: OH NO OH NO OH NO OH NO OH NO!!!!!! Those Democratic strategists who are warning that Biden needs to stop saying how great the economy is and complaining about shitty media coverage are right! He needs to be visiting grocery stores every week, talking about prices, showing he gets it, and telling people he’s doing his best but this is one part of the economy that’s taking longer to recover after the pandemic, and SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT. Is Biden gonna just ignore this and keep going around telling the media they’re wrong about the economy and saying “Bidenomics is working” when the other side is gonna use that as a term of ridicule against him? Oh God. We’re gonna end up with Trump. And I won’t know how to cope. It will crush me, really just kill me this time. I can’t do it.
[45 minutes later after taking an Ativan for episodes of intense anxiety.]
My Brain: I’m so scared… I’ve got to stop freaking out over each thing I see or hear. I really need some help managing. At least I can breathe now. Thank you Big Pharma. At least for the next hour I don’t feel like I’m about to die.
Among my fellow liberals and progressives, I know that I’m far from alone in living inside a hypervigilant, hyperanxious mental state. I need to say something, to myself, and perhaps by saying it to others I might hear it:
I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to live my days like this.
I don’t know what will happen in 2024. Nobody does. I don’t even know what will probably happen.
In my fantasy, this is the person I would be: I would know that I’m committed to giving a lot of my time, energy, and money to helping re-elect Biden and Dems. And I would know that whether we win or lose the election, I will still feel good about myself, because feeling good about myself is based on trusting that whatever the future brings I will try to act upon my values, I will try to be helpful to others, I will try to lift people up, and that I will have a life that is still meaningful and has joy in it. I would feel like the bedrock inside me is based in feeling like I’l be okay because I’ll have faith in myself. Because I’ll have cultivated acceptance that the outcomes of national elections are out of my control. Because I’ll have come to recognize that the question of whether or not humanity will cooperate to overcome our century’s challenges and make a better world, or whether the uglier side of our nature will lead us to tremendous suffering and calamity is also out of my control.
I won’t be indifferent to humanity’s fate. I won’t be a robot. If Trump wins I’ll scream and cry and share grief and fear with friends and take a lot of Ativan for awhile. If Biden wins I’ll run circles of joy around my neighborhood, possibly barely clothed, and buy all my friends cigars whether they smoke them or not, and then I’ll learn how to do a real cartwheel in the grass and make a video of myself proving that I can do it (possibly my last act in this life but I’ll die with a smile as I break my neck).
I won’t be indifferent. But I will have learned, as they teach in Al Anon, to detach with love from the choices that my fellow Americans, and my fellow citizens of Earth, make. I’ll have learned to detach with love from the outcomes of things I might be able to influence in a tiny way, but which I absolutely do not control. I’ll have learned how to live as someone whose general serenity, whose sense of having a meaningful story to my life, is based on the faith I have in myself to do the kinds of good in the world that I have done over and over again in my life to lift people up. That’s what my closest friends reflect back to me, what they see and appreciate in me. I’m not saying I don’t have faults or that I don’t make mistakes and sometimes do wrong — of course I do, like all of us.
I’m just saying I want to become a person whose core sense of being cannot be shattered by something terrible like a Trump return to power. I want to be someone whose day-to-day inner life isn’t dominated by fear and anxiety, or by failing to experience love and joy in all the ways that life can offer even if things I don’t want to happen in the world end up happening.
I want to be the person who fights for what I believe in like Rocky but accepts the things I cannot change like Buddha.
I want to be like that.
My Brain: Source of Life, please help me learn how to be like that. I need your help.
Note: A version of this diary also is available at my blog, The Accidental Rabbi.