Another election is upon us and this campaign season feels worse than before. Perhaps it’s the reactions of those who harbor resentment for one or both presidential candidates. Or, maybe we simply forgot how miserable the homestretch can be.
Nonetheless, there’s a high level of anxiety as Nov. 8 approaches and it cuts both ways. There are voters who believe that, yes, the future of the Republic is at stake and that if their favored candidate loses the presidency we’re all doomed. There were similar arguments made when George W. Bush and Barack Obama were up for reelection. They both won and we survived.
This time, there are no incumbents. Instead, there is the FBI investigating emails, videotapes with vulgar language and accusations of sexual assault. There are debates with no handshakes beforehand. And there are two candidates reaffirming many of their constituents’ fears: if the other candidate wins, it’s all over. Everything.
Regardless of America’s checks and balances — the Supreme Court, Congress — somehow the stakes seem higher this time.
The anxiety has spread further this year, likely a result of two historically unpopular candidates. The American Psychological Association released data last month showing 52 percent of Americans are stressed out over the election.
“We’re seeing that it doesn’t matter whether you’re registered as a Democrat or Republican — U.S. adults say they are experiencing significant stress from the current election,” said Lynn Bufka, PhD, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy.
The group offered tips on maintaining your sanity through Election Day, including taking a digital break. The study found political and culture topics on social media are stressing out nearly 40 percent of Americans.
A separate poll conducted by ABC News, also released in October, had similar findings. It also highlighted the groups with the largest percentage of anxiety: women (51 percent), liberal Democrats (57 percent), and evangelical white Protestants (56 percent).
These polls were recorded before the last October surprise: FBI Director James Comey sending a letter to Congress saying that his agency was investigating new emails involving Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That was just one surprise in a series of them last month, which began with the Washington Post publishing a 2005 recording of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump bragging about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women.
Every presidential election cycle, voters complain about the never-ending political season, but the last year-and-half was a slog. From the large number of GOP debates to the bitter primary between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, this year was dominated by especially ugly campaigns.
They’re all ugly to a degree, but this one had a trickle-down effect. Along with a presidential race to stoke worries, Montanans were bombarded with the costliest gubernatorial race in the state’s history. And it hasn’t been pretty.
Many of the commercials looping on television feature ominous music, accusations of scandal — both real and imagined — and warn Montanans about losing access to the outdoors and being overrun by refugees.
This campaign season feels worse. And it’s time for it to be over.