Heap (Politics Edition)

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Image: Jedidiah Gant / New Raleigh

Early voting ended on Saturday. The election takes place on Tuesday. My mother called me the other day and told me that she went and cast her ballot. These are the circumstances in which I’m finally writing down my thoughts on the election, the campaign, the state of things. You know, stuff I should have written down weeks ago when it meant something.

This is going to be disjointed, but I think that’s the only way to get it done at this point.

Inhale.

I don’t want to talk about the main act. For North Carolina, it’s the state and local level that make a difference. Even so, I do want to take a second to talk about how tired I am of Richard Burr, our ranking senator and representative since 1995.

As far as Senate Republicans go, we’ve consistently elected one of the most boring ones. In a legislative body that houses the likes of Jeff Sessions, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and a dozen other insidious wretches who are perpetually on tilt, Burr does not stand out in the crowd. He is a stooge who says what the party says and votes as the party votes.

He was gung ho for the Iraq war. He maintains an A rating from the NRA. He thinks marriage equality and LGBT rights are best left to the states (but would prefer that they oppose them). Most of the legislation he sponsors is related to defense or the armed forces, which is no doubt advantageous given the large military population of our state.

After 20 years in Washington, his most notable leadership position is his current chairmanship of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which he uses not to conduct congressional oversight of our intelligence agencies but to make it that much easier for them to spy on us. He voted to extend the use of roving wiretaps first authorized by the PATRIOT act and has voted against requiring more FISA court warrants to monitor international communications.

When he’s not tweeting lies about how the US paid a ransom to Iran or generally talking about how diplomacy is bad foreign policy, he’s trying to convince people that “Obamacare is imploding.” He points out how providers keep pulling out of the health insurance marketplace without providing adequate context. 80% of Americans are insured through their employer, through Medicare or Medicaid, or through some other means. The ACA was passed to cover those in between, and by and large it has done so. It’s true that premiums are going up and that some people are in regions where only one provider is left, but that doesn’t mean it’s all going up in smoke. It affects something like 10 million people in the whole country.

Burr is just using Obamacare the same way as every other Republican. They attack any opponents who support the ACA and want to fix it instead of doing things the GOP way: burn it all to the ground and go back to the way things used to be.

If Burr is tired of being boring, joking about letting gun owners assassinate a major party candidate/future President elect is a great way to get attention in this day and age. Too bad that joke is a few months old now. We have Trump to thank for that, not that Burr minds. Throughout Trump’s exciting October, Burr has remained a consummate supporter of his party’s presidential nominee, even while others have disavowed him and ceased their efforts to hold the White House.

Burr is also a member of Mitch McConnell’s cohort that has held a seat on the Supreme Court open for close to an entire year in the hopes that Donald Trump will fill the vacancy. With the odds against Trump, they have abandoned all pretense that this was ever about letting the American people choose their next Supreme Court justice — they now say they will block any nominations that a President Clinton would make for the next four years. This isn’t really how our justice system is supposed to work, but that’s the wonders of our system of government for you. It’s not like this is the first time Burr has willfully obstructed a judicial appointment.

Finally, it’s said that Burr does a good job listening to constituent issues and somehow manages to find time for them in the midst of all the special interest groups he has to cater to as a party-line conservative. My petty counter to this is that I once wrote him a letter as a requirement for a merit badge. I don’t recall ever receiving a response from him or his office. I have also written him after a couple of the mass shootings that plague our country, expressing my deep concern for the lack of gun control legislation making progress in the senate. He didn’t respond to that either.

I voted for Deborah Ross to be our new Senator. Here are some nice things about her:

  • She has served in our state legislature at a time when she was able to lead efforts to expand voting rights and make it easier for people to vote.
  • She served as leader of the NC ACLU for 6 years working on First Ammendment and juvenile justice issues.
  • She has heard of that “climate change” thing and wants to do something about it.
  • She also wants to expand Medicaid, repair infrastructure, and put more people to work.

You should vote for her, too, if you haven’t already.

Pat McCrory. I would rather skip this section, but the latest poll has the NC gubernatorial race as a toss up. And I don’t really get it, and yet I do.

Do people watch gubernatorial debates? I’m inclined to say probably not. We had some, and I watched about half of one after finding out it was on. Let me tell you, as much as McCrory likes to attack Cooper for being a career politician, Pat is the guy who knows how to talk like one. Roy is really folksy. He’s a nice guy, and you can tell. But he doesn’t look as comfortable behind a podium during the verbal pissing contests that count as debates in our country.

You can follow McCrory’s twitter, and you can watch his ads, and you can see how he and his campaign have a better grasp of narrative. They know what to say, they know how to say it, they know how to present it. It’s a well-greased machine that worked four years ago, and it’s why this election is a toss up now.

This election shouldn’t be a toss up. McCrory boasts about his leadership and brags about his success as mayor of Charlotte, but that’s not the same guy who has been living in the governor’s mansion the past four years. His complete abdication of leadership in the face of a general assembly that has long since gone off the rails has allowed for our state to regress yet again. Perhaps we were overdue for the type of course correction that born-again redeemers think is right for North Carolina.

Since 2010, they have

  • imposed racial gerrymanders over state districts designed to keep one party in power
  • enacted legislation meant to suppress voter turnout (largely among black people but also among students and other likely Democratic voters)
  • gutted funding for public education at all levels while taking steps to privatize our schools
  • allowed tax credits for the film industry to lapse, costing local economies in areas like Wilmington millions of dollars while studios invest in Georgia and South Carolina instead
  • most recently and most odiously, called an emergency session in March of this year to pass HB2, the bathroom bill that has endangered trans people and cost our economy hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tourism and canceled growth

They did this (the NC senate under Phil Berger, and the NC house first under Thom Tillis and now Tim Moore), and since taking office in 2013, McCrory has stood by or signed bill after damaging bill into law.

And the list goes on. It goes on and on, longer than I can personally account for. Luckily, Indy Week has a list of “66 Reasons Not to Vote for Pat McCrory” that apparently also isn’t the full list (they had to edit it down).

McCrory is thin-skinned and feckless, and he is apathetic to the interests of anyone who hasn’t personally helped him advance his career or his personal wealth. That ought to remind you of the Republican candidate for president, a guy who McCrory has been especially supportive of since June, in spite of all that has been said.

Our governor justified HB 2 as a bill that would protect women. He hopes you will elect Donald Trump.

Roy Cooper wants to repeal HB 2, replenish the education budget, invest in clean energy, and expand Medicaid. He also has a solid record as Attorney General, having refused to defend the more heinous cases that McCrory and co have embroiled the state in. I would expect him to apply the same level of conscientiousness to his veto. I voted for Roy Cooper because I remain loyal to the state that North Carolina aspires to be, not to the state as it is now.

Last August I got called up for jury duty. As luck would have it, I was seated for a murder trial in the NC Superior Court.

For three and a half days, I inhabited a courtroom and holding area high up in the Wake County Justice Center. At the end, my peers and I decided that the defendant was not guilty of murder in the first degree, which left him to be sentenced for second degree murder.

The judge presiding over that case was Mike Morgan. I mostly remember his poise and the calm demeanor with which he explained our role to us. He said little during the trial except to welcome or dismiss us to and from the courtroom. When called to the stand, the defendant had a habit of answering questions by nodding or shaking his head. At that point, Judge Morgan would speak up and tell him to answer the question audibly so that the stenographer could accurately record the proceedings. He had to rebuke the defendant multiple times for this, but his tone never grew frustrated. Merely insistent.

Judge Morgan is running for a seat on the NC Supreme Court now. The incumbent he’s running against is by most considerations a fair and thoughtful jurist. But he has to go if for no other reason than the General Assembly wanted him so badly to stay.

Last year, the NCGA attempted to impose a new type of election for supreme court seats. If they had been allowed to go through with it, incumbent Bob Edmunds would have run in a retention election. He would have faced no one and voters would have only had the option of saying “Yes” or “No” to whether he kept his seat. If Edmunds was voted out, his seat would have been filled by Governor appointment.

A district court struck this law down, and when it came before the supreme court later, Edmunds had to recuse himself. The court was in stalemate, split 3-3 among the remaining justices, so the lower court’s opinion stands. The North Carolina Supreme Court is as nonpartisan as any other institution in this country, which is to say not at all. Republicans in the general assembly have relied on the 4-3 conservative majority to uphold legislation designed to suppress voter turnout and control the redistricting process.

Seating Mike Morgan can shift the balance away from conservatives and impose another much-needed check on the likes of Phil Berger and Tim Moore. Having served in Judge Morgan’s court, I feel even more comfortable casting my vote for him.

There’s another judicial race that features Phil Berger, Jr.

Vote for the other candidate.

After the congressional districts were redrawn again back in the spring, I’ve ended up in US House District 4. The incumbent here is David Price, and he’s been around for a while. He’s served in the House for the better part of 30 years and has a ranking seat on the appropriations subcommittee overseeing housing and urban development.

Price carries favorable positions on everything from the environment to campaign finance reform. You know the rule where candidates have to appear in their ads and say “I endorse this message”? Price came up with that. He’s been around long enough to recognize the deleterious effects that money has had on politics. Having a representative who is vocally upset about it is about as good as you can ask for these days.

His opponent is Sue Googe, a woman who is using her catchy name to declare gun control legislation futile and wants to reduce taxes on corporations.

This wasn’t a tough choice.

At the very bottom of the ballot, provided you live in Wake County, you’ll find a referendum for a sales tax increase of half a cent. This tax will provide for improvements and modernization to our public transit system. They are improvements that we desperately need.

Every day, 63 people move to Wake county. That puts dozens of new drivers on roads that are already congested. We’ve had the same buses since I was a kid. They’re not called CAT buses anymore, and they put a new wrap on them, but they are the same. We have to do better. We have to give people more options, or else we’re not going to be able to keep up with our growth.

If you’re wondering why this money has to be raised from a sales tax instead of a properly progressive tax, that’s because the state legislature won’t allow it. They don’t want Wake County to add this sales tax either, but they haven’t outlawed it. Yet.

NC House District 49. This is a race between Democrat Cynthia Ball and Republican Gary “The Pendleton” Pendleton.

Pendleton is not as bad as they come. He’s a retired Brigadier General, a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, and a former president of the Occoneechee Council. His position on HB2 is confusing.

I voted for Ball because she wants a full repeal of HB 2, and she also wants to restore funding to public education. She has also spoken out about environmental issues such as coal ash contamination.

NC Senate District 15. Democrat Laurel Deegan-Fricke versus incumbent John M. “Johnny Mac” Alexander.

Alexander relies on his experience in business to “create an environment conducive to job creation” and “recruit the types of good, clean businesses that we want.” Yet he must not have been thinking about that when he voted for HB 2 back in March. He’s since reversed his position, but it took him until September, after it must have been clear that his constituents were furious about the law and its effects.

Johnny Mac was also my mentor during the confirmation process at my church. He was there when he needed to be.

Following a theme, I voted for Deegan-Fricke because she wants to focus on education and repeal HB 2. She also lists the environment as a top priority, but doesn’t have much to say about it otherwise. We could probably do worse than Alexander, but my vote is as much for Deegan-Fricke as it is against a Republican majority.

There are a lot of other races. It was a long ballot (there’s a back). Where I could, I tried to vote for candidates opposed to HB 2, opposed to the current general assembly’s idea of public education, and in favor of greater environmental stewardship.

That first one is a real lynchpin, and to be honest, it’s one of the reasons I’m so upset about it. I’m not a single issue voter, but when you’re a member of a minority group whose rights are threatened by infringement (a tautology), sometimes you find yourself in a stranglehold. I can’t vote for someone who isn’t going to fight to repeal that law. It’s a distraction from other important issues in the way that termites are a distraction from a house fire, eating away at who you are while the rest leaves your home charred beyond recognition.

And this isn’t over after the election. Not even after they repeal the law. Whoever gets elected, they can’t stop hearing about this. Republicans, by unfortunate definition, are deaf to many of our issues. But Democrats, when it isn’t an election season, do precious little to disabuse people of the notion that LGBT rights are already widespread. This is inexcusable.

I can still be fired for being gay. I can be evicted. All it would take is a whim from my boss or landlord. If I came across as gay, I might even open myself to risk of violence or harassment when crossing paths with the wrong person. And as bad as it is for me, it’s 100 times worse for trans people.

We have to hold their feet to the fire, those who claim to represent us. That goes for civil rights, social issues, the environment, education, everything. November 9 is not the start of the off-season. It has to be the beginning of the end of complacency.

This is the part where I fail to avoid talking about the Presidential race. There isn’t a lot left to say about Donald Trump at this point. I haven’t even been able to keep up with the latest “surprises.” I just know that the gap is narrowing anyway because we’re getting closer to election day because that’s how it works.

What I will say about Donald Trump is this: He is the HB 2 of the national race.

His candidacy has invalidated what needed to be a substantive policy debate. We have pressing, deep-seated issues and disagreements that should have been addressed by this contest.

Would that have happened with another candidate? Would we have had an election about the issues if a Jeb Bush or a Marco Rubio or a Ted Cruz had won the Republican nomination?

I doubt it.

But I know that Trump made it impossible.

There are valid criticisms of Hillary Clinton that have been raised and immediately dismissed by the next inane transgression out of Trump’s mouth or Trump’s past. Her flaws and drawbacks might tower over another candidate, but in Trump’s shadow they are barely discernible.

And so I voted for Hillary Clinton. I voted for her because voting for her means a vote for women’s healthcare. It’s a vote for a public option for health insurance. It’s a chance at debt free college for families and students who need it. It’s a vote for supporting the needy through the expansion of early child care. It’s a vote for raising taxes on the rich. It’s a shot at progressive Supreme Court justices if the Senate decides we can still have a Supreme Court. It’s a vote for a platform that, taken in full, has a true progressive slant (Thanks, Bernie).

It’s a vote out of respect for a lifetime of service. It’s a vote for a presidential demeanor. It’s a vote for forever disassociating a woman from the mistakes her husband makes (a matter I feel especially strongly about). It’s a vote for basic competence and an understanding of the duties of the office.

But it is also a vote for a continuation of our current foreign policy. It’s a vote for extrajudicial killing via drone strike. It’s a vote for the destabilization of foreign powers at a whim. It is a vote for the continued expansion of the surveillance state and the uncompromising prosecution of whistleblowers.

I look at this election looking for the candidate who isn’t going to take rights away from me and who will prevent others from doing the same, and I know who I should vote for. I look for the candidate who will allow protest without question, who will take criticism, who will change course if there is enough outreach and public discontent. I know who to vote for.

I look for a candidate who will keep us out of war with Russia, and I have to hesitate more. I look for someone who will pay more than lip service to the environment and the drastic steps we need to take slow down climate change, and it isn’t clear. I know I voted for the candidate who will say the right things about gun control after the next mass shooting, but I know they alone can’t do anything about it.

All of this leaves me unsatisfied, but that is the reality of our political system. And I understand that reality.

The only politics that matters right now is pragmatism. That’s what this election has come down to. It is the best we can hope for on Tuesday.

Speaking of pragmatism, get out of here with your third party vote. You’re too late.

Whether it’s your idea of a protest or you (somehow) genuinely prefer one of the third party candidates, all you’re doing is splitting the vote in such a way that gives Trump a better chance. Look at 1912. Look at 2000. Look at the recent gubernatorial bouts in Maine. That’s the effect you’re having.

Nevermind that Jill Stein thinks Wi-Fi is bad for children (she wasn’t even on the ballot in NC) or that Gary Johnson wouldn’t make it past the first round of a middle school geography bee. The climate for third parties in this country still isn’t in a position to affect change or do anything for anyone on a national scale.

Johnson balks at being called a spoiler, but if that upsets him then maybe he should have started smaller. He served as a Republican governor of New Mexico before he was a Libertarian. Between the end of his governorship and his first candidacy for the Libertarians in 2012, his most significant political contribution was an endorsement for Ron Paul in the 2008 Republican primary.

Why start smaller? Why not? Why not build up a real Libertarian movement? Start with a local government, work up to a statehouse, maybe win a governor’s race. Let people hear about that and decide whether they want to join there? Maybe then the Libertarians would be a real political party instead of a bunch of disaffected Republicans (of which there are probably a lot more now).

It would have to work the same way for any third party movement. Bernie Sanders might be the best example of third party success, and yet he has ended up co-opting a sizeable portion of the Democratic party instead, rather than forming a truly independent platform (though he himself has returned to the Senate as Independent as ever).

Sanders gets it, though. He knows that if you want to introduce new ideas, you have to work with the system as it is, not as you want it to be. It isn’t about sweeping change. It’s about biding your time, being patient, and waiting for the right moment. That’s how you end up having a profound impact on a major party platform, and hopefully it’s how you inspire others to take up your banner and continue your work moving forward.

It remains to be seen, though.

I would just reiterate that if you’re voting for a third party now, you’re too late. This isn’t the year we get a third option.

In school, a friend and I would joke about starting a party called the Bull Moose Party of North Carolina. It was to be a fusion of the ideas of Bernie Sanders and Teddy Roosevelt. We were drunk, but from what I can remember it still sounded like a great idea.

Our hyper partisan politics aren’t going away anytime soon. They’re probably just going to get worse.

Somewhere in Kentucky or D.C. or wherever on Wednesday morning, Mitch McConnell will walk into a meeting and announce that the first priority of the Republican party for the next four years will be to stop Hillary Clinton from being reelected.

At some point, “Democrats and Republicans disagree on how much money to spend on different parts of government” ballooned into “Compromise is betrayal.”

We treat politics like a team sport with every election as a season, each weekly poll as a game. Who’s winning? Who’s losing? What are the keys to the next game? What are the x-factors that will help candidate B gain an edge?

Here comes a debate, an exercise in rhetoric and understanding policy that we’ve let broadcasters turn into another night in the octagon. Maybe next time around we’ll have live color commentary to tell us who’s winning in real time instead of letting every press outlet tell us the winners and losers later that night.

Now the election is over. It’s the offseason, so let’s take a live look into each party’s training camp as they decide who will be on the ballot three years from now. Nevermind what the people we voted for are doing in the meantime. It doesn’t matter after the first 100 days, right?

At the core of this team sports understanding of politics is tribalism.

“I’m a Democrat, you’re a Republican, we can’t be friends.”

“Mitt Romney is a cartoon character and a tycoon, if you vote for him you’re completely heartless.”

“Hillary is so corrupt, how can you believe anything she says? What an idiot you are.”

These surface level assessments keep us from making any progress. We can’t accomplish anything when you turn everything into a base value judgment.

There are legitimate problems here. “Disaster” is the political buzzword of the campaign, but it doesn’t really go far enough.

Republicans have a white nationalist problem. Not a joke, it’s right there in the news. Democrats, for all their faults, are not trying to win elections by taking voting rights away from minorities and then telling their base that’s ok. And Donald Trump doesn’t happen without the kind of dog-whistle reinforcement that Republicans have been espousing for years. The narrative that we need to be sympathetic for Trump’s base ignores the data showing that his supporters aren’t motivated by the economy but rather by open hostility for minorities and immigrants (and women).

Trump says that the election is rigged, and we rightfully condemn him for rhetoric that can empower a dangerous, disruptive crowd after the election. But Democrats talking about how Russia is influencing the presidential race likely sounds just as deranged to the average Trump voter. We call for Trump to condemn the Klan and the neo-Nazi collective that backs him on the internet, but Trump supporters don’t understand why Obama or Hillary are not pressed to disavow Black Lives Matter. That tribal character has so infected our political system that false equivalences like these are able to spread and thrive.

On the other hand, Democrats (and really liberals at large) have a smugness problem, and it’s a lot more difficult to speak to. I don’t really have any data to point to here. It’s more of a feeling born from experience.

It’s easy to come off as dismissive when the opposition is held back by problems that I and others might consider so brazenly backward. Conservatives and Republicans tend to campaign on issues that clearly seek to deny rights to others. From abortion to gay marriage to gender equality to voting rights to gun control, I would say that I not only disagree with conservatives, I would say that they are wrong.

The problem is when this attitude extends to issues that aren’t so black and white, like taxes, foreign policy, regulation, healthcare, education, and so on. It’s easy to be dismissive on reflex when more nuanced topics come up despite the reasoning behind a counter argument.

On a larger scale, it’s allowed the leadership of the Democratic party to turn its base’s attention to certain issues while letting them forget about others. They can work people into a frenzy over social issues anytime they need a distraction from calls to prosecute Wall Street executives. We can get so mad about Republicans and the NRA sabotaging gun control legislation that we forget about drone strikes. It works for everything. It’s like rally around the protest banner instead of rally around the flag. There are a million things that seem more pressing than climate change, and do you even remember when there was an anti-war movement within the Democratic party?

To be frank, I don’t think I’m doing a good job of explaining any of this, and I’ve had to stop myself several times from just holding down backspace. I’m leaving most of this intact because I’m hoping that the intent might get across even if the clarity isn’t there.

David Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush who has recently distanced himself from what is left of the GOP. He wrote a conservative case for Hillary Clinton that is interesting if only as a presentation of the contortions that some people have undergone to justify voting for Trump.

He also cited a quote from George Washington that jumped out at me, especially while thinking about our partisan system:

If we arrive at the bizarre endpoint where such seemingly closed questions are open to debate, partisan rancor has overwhelmed and overpowered the reasoning functions of our brains. America’s first president cautioned his posterity against succumbing to such internecine hatreds: “The spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension … leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.” George Washington’s farewell warning resounds with reverberating relevance in this election year.

Quick update: Ezra Klein posted an article today talking about Trump and factors that have led to his success that drives closer to some of the stuff that has been bothering me. I wanted to link it and block quote a couple of passages that summarize those feelings into more concise thoughts.

Political scientist Julia Azari has written the single most important sentence for understanding both Trump’s rise and this dangerous era in American politics: “The defining characteristic of our moment is that parties are weak while partisanship is strong.”

Here is the problem, in short: Parties, and particularly the Republican Party, can no longer control whom they nominate. But once they nominate someone — once they nominate anyone — that person is guaranteed the support of both the party’s elites and its voters. Unlike in McGovern’s day, when ticket splitting was common, any candidate able to win his party’s presidential primaries can now count on his party’s support, and so has a damn good chance of winning the presidency.

Since 1964, the American National Election Studies have been asking Republicans and Democrats to describe their feelings toward the other party on a scale that runs from cold and negative to warm and positive. In 1964, 31 percent of Republicans had cold, negative feelings toward the Democratic Party, and 32 percent of Democrats had cold, negative feelings toward the Republican Party. By 2012, that had risen to 77 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats.

Today, fully 45 percent of Republicans, and 41 percent of Democrats, believe the other party’s policies “threaten the nation’s well-being.” This fear is strongest among the most politically involved. Which makes sense: You’re more likely to take an active interest in American politics if you think the stakes are high. But that means the people driving American politics — and particularly the people driving low-turnout party primaries — have the most apocalyptic view of the other side.

So here, then, is the key failure point in modern American politics, and observing it in action requires looking no further than the Republican Party: Voters’ dislike of their own party has broken the primary process, but fear of the opposition has guaranteed unified party support to the nominee. That means whoever manages to win a flawed competition dominated by the angriest, most terrified partisans ends within spitting distance of the presidency.

I’ve overslept three times since I started working three years ago. Two of those three times happened in the last month. On recent weekends, I’ve grown frustrated after sleeping upwards of ten hours in a night.

I catch myself grinding my teeth during the day, an old habit that seems to have grown worse, and my dentist has me wearing a night guard in case I’m doing it in my sleep, too.

A lot of my friends are out of town, and my main contact with them is email. Lately it’s been a struggle to respond to people. I’m usually long-winded, and yet I let weeks go by while I think of what I could say. Other friends I’ve made are those online, people I keep up with through instant messaging clients, and there again I struggle to make conversation or even say hello. I can feel distances growing without knowing what to do about them.

In college, I had bouts like this. Times where I was drawn inward and got stuck in my own head too much. There were days I’d sleep so long that I didn’t see the sun, and I’d end up missing meals while failing to salvage those days.

I came to recognize these periods as a kind of conditional depression. The difference between then and now is that I could usually reason through it and drill down to the root.

I was anxious about going to college in the first place, unsure of what I wanted from it.

I was worried about choosing a major, concerned about making such a defining choice.

I rarely felt like the equal of my peers, and always underrated my work compared to others. Imposter syndrome is still something I grapple with.

I was closeted and living in a fraternity house without an easy way out.

But I had friends close at hand, and there was never a dark day that didn’t pass.

When I try to go through the same checklist now, it’s much more difficult. Those friends that I rely on are very far away, and it’s harder to find a space to decompress.

As for finding the root cause, I hope it’s the election. It’s been a constant presence throughout the past however many months. Almost by design, there’s no escaping it.

On one hand, I hope that by writing all of this down, I’ve been able to excise some of the thoughts that have been stuck in my craw. On the other hand, I just want it to be over. I need Wednesday morning to get here so that I know it’s done and that I can start moving on.

I think at my core I am an optimistic, if down to earth, individual. This year more than any before has made it a huge challenge to follow through with that. Elections, since I’ve been following them, have a way of bringing sharp divisions to the fore. That notion of tribalism separates people into factions, and it doesn’t do it neatly or fairly.

I read this article in GQ a few weeks back. It’s a great read, and at the time it made me smile, but it also unearthed some doubts in my mind. The writer talks about taking his son to Fashion Week in Paris as a Bar Mitzvah present. The kid loves clothes, and he meets a bunch of other people who love clothes, too (the article goes into more detail, you should really read it). In the conclusion, the author remarks that his son has found his people, much earlier than most.

I wonder if I’ve ever managed to find my people. If I have, they’re surely scattered instead of in one place. In weaker moments, I worry that I’ve never made a lasting impression on any group. That I’m not essential to anything. I keep my life compartmentalized, something I thought was needed but that I worry has worked against me on occasion.

I wrestle with the inconsistency of all these doubts, and I usually get the pin. But they still turn up time and again.

It could be a matter of chasing some hypothetical granfalloon while missing my karass. I don’t know. The longer I stay in Raleigh, the more apparent it is I need a new base. That’s my primary conclusion.

So I’m ready for the election to be over. If I start feeling better, I’ll know why. If not, I’ll move onto the next theory. In writing through this, I may have already worked out the true problem.

To be clear, I’m looking forward to the end of the stress and anxiety caused by this race in particular. In light of all that I’ve said, I’m not going to block out politics or forget what matters. We still have to keep the winners accountable. If we don’t, it’s just going to happen all over again.

Now.

Exhale.