I pay regular attention to politics, particularly U.S. politics. While I am no political scientist, I stay updated on the latest political news.
A common piece of advice is to avoid politics for the sake of mental health. Indeed, politics can be very frustrating, depressing, and worrying. Personally, I do not believe my mental health is strongly affected by political news; I have only felt strong emotions from politics twice. One of which was the U.S. 2020 presidential election.
The 2020 presidential election was a tense moment for anyone even remotely attentive to politics. As someone who identifies as a social Democrat, I wanted, like any other liberal, more than anything else, a president that was not Donald Trump. While I assert that my mental health remains unscathed from politics, I always pound my fist mentally when reminded that that hateful, racist, uneducated, idiot of a manbaby who talks like a middle schooler was somehow president of the United State.
As such, I paid close attention to the events leading up to the election. I watched both presidential debates live, though I wanted to tear my eyes out after the first. I participated in political arguments with the rest of my family. There were many arguments at the dinner table during that time period.
Polling and articles and videos about electoral strategy were also given a fair amount of attention. Fivethirtyeight, a polling aggregate and election news site was one particular site that I often frequented. I still distinctly remember that the night before Election Day, Fivethirtyeight, using polling data and mathematical analysis, had Biden the victor with 9-1 odds.
Of course, as anyone with election experience knows, polls are somewhat unreliable, and Trump in particular was known to confuse polls. Regardless, I had hoped that Biden would win Florida and Texas and the election would be over on Election Day. On Election Day night, while sitting on my computer watching Google’s election coverage, my heart plummeted after seeing Trump winning both Florida and Texas with sizable leads.
For anyone unfamiliar with the 2020 presidential electoral map, the most likely route to victory for Trump was winning Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and most importantly, Pennsylvania. This was the most likely list of swing states, based on polling, Trump had to win in order to obtain the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win the presidency.
Final polling had both Texas and Florida as closely contested states. On Election Day, when Trump started winning both states with significant leads, it was immediately apparent that the polling was indeed off, by a large margin, in Trump’s favor. The night of Election Day, I mostly sat in front of my computer, constantly refreshing the web pages of all my news sites and online forums.
Fortunately for me and my sanity, Biden was quickly declared the winner of Arizona. Without Arizona, Trump had to win the Rust Belt swing states(Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania), most of which Biden had around a 10 point poll lead. The next few weeks were tense, despite Biden’s significant lead from the beginning. I would, without fail, check the latest election news right before I went to bed and the moment I woke up. My schedule, especially my sleep schedule, became erratic as I was constantly anxious about the election.
Ultimately, Trump did not win the Rust Belt, including Pennsylvania. He even lost Georgia, thanks to some heroism by Stacey Abrams. While Biden’s victory in Georgia was unnecessary for his presidency, it proved critical in swinging the senate to a Democrat majority.
The morning after Biden’s victory was declared (which I believe was the day after Pennsylvania’s votes finished counting), news channels showed residents across every major city in the country celebrating. I regret not being in Manhattan that day to hear and join the cheer of New Yorkers, who, like the people of other cities, collectively realized that the political nightmare that was Trump’s presidency was finally going to be over.
Overall the experience was quite jarring. While I had initially assumed that I was apathetic towards political news in general, conditioned by daily updates of Trump’s atrocities for four years, the two week of election anxiety that I had experienced in November 2020 proved that my mental health and well-being was not immune to news, politics, and world events.
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