Sean Edwards

The American Resurrection

The Healthy Way To Deal With Post-Election Anxiety

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The response to my last post was off the hook! Thank you for commenting a contributing. I learned a lot, and really enjoyed engaging with everyone.

After chatting with a bunch of people, I wanted to post a follow-up article about how to deal with post-election anxiety.

Because a lot of people are having post-election anxiety.

I touched on this in “Why Your Reaction To The Election May Say More About You Than The Election Itself,” but I really want to hit the nail on the head.

If you are having fear or anxiety about the election, I would invite you to take a second look at why you’re anxious. 

All feelings and emotions are rooted in some thought or idea. Emotions do not float around, disconnected from your mind. You thought about something, made a conclusion about, and now those conclusions are pressing the “panic” button.

You may not be conscious of these thoughts, but you still have them.

I want to suggest that your anxiety over the election may not be about the election itself, but what you believe the election represented.

And once we look at that belief, I think you’ll find it illuminating, freeing, and empowering.

You’re Anxious About Something, But Its Not What You Think

I would like to invite us all (no matter who you voted for) to reflect on this quote:

Is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that, in our endeavor to consciously shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact have unwittingly produced the very opposite of what we have been striving for?

– Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom.

Is it possible that our desire to change the world for the better actually put us in the position to FEAR an election out-come?

Love him, or hate him, Trump is our next president. And that has some people really scared. Genuinely scared.

Therefore, I feel compelled to ask a very pointed question: What kind of government do we want? Or, what kind of world do we want?

Over the last 100 years, we have worked hard to improve the living conditions for all Americans.

The introduction of programs like Social Security, Medicare, and other programs like them have all attempted to build a better tomorrow.

However, by tasking the government with these jobs, have we created the very thing we now fear?

How Did We Get Here???

Let me illustrate, and let’s use socialized healthcare as an example.

When we task the government to give healthcare to all individuals, we run into some inherent logistic problems. Mainly, congress can’t agree on every detail.

Even if everyone in the House of Representatives wanted to create a universal healthcare system, you have 435 individuals with different ideas on how this universal healthcare system should work.

Socialized healthcare is VERY complicated. Suddenly the government has to write THOUSANDS of new regulations and design the entire system. Yeah right!

Inevitably, a group as big as the House will come to a grid-lock because they can’t arrive at a consensus.

So, we establish a committee to do all the hard work, and then submit the results to Congress for approval.

(We do this all the time. Remember the sequester budget cuts a few years back? That’s an example of it NOT working…)

What is a government to do? The people have said, “We want socialized healthcare,” but the government can’t come to an agreement on how to do it.

Instead of trying to pass every piece of the system at once, they pass a law that sets up government agency to design the system and hammer out the details. Think of the EPA, FCC, or the Federal Reserve.

But congress can’t stop there. Because what if this new “socialized healthcare” agency spends 2 years making their plans, then submits it to a new congress, just to have it shot it down?

Or worse yet, what if a new congress decides to hold people’s healthcare access hostage to get what they want on another issue?

No, “we need to keep politics out of healthcare.”

To “keep politics out of healthcare,” congress decides that this new agency doesn’t need to get to congressional approval in the future, as long as they follow some very broad rules (because that’s all they could agree on).

Congress preemptively authorize their actions. But, this agency’s actions won’t be called laws; they’ll be called regulations (sounding familiar?).

This is the way complicated items get through the congress.

Here’s what we’ve done. We’ve aggregated more and more power into the hands of fewer and fewer people. And we’ve gotten to the point that these people no longer require congressional approval to enact their policies.

Think this goes too far and over simplifies things?

  • The Federal Reserve doesn’t require congressional approval to print more money.
  • The EPA doesn’t need congressional approval for its “regulations.”
  • The FCC can just make decisions about the Internet without any voter oversight.

And those are just the cases I can think of off the top of my head.

Sometimes, the President has to approve or block their activity, but that’s not democratic. That’s quasi-dictatorial.

And many times, the President gets to appoint the leaders of these agencies.

This is the point: Our desire to make the world a better place (through the government) has created a more powerful government, and put a greater amount of power into the hands of fewer people. And in some cases, solely into the hands of the President.

Elections then become a choice between the liberal quasi-dictator or the conservative quasi-dictator. This is where we are now.

But, if we continue with this trend… a real dictator will rise.

If We Do Nothing, It Will Only Get Worse

If we continue to task the government with things it can’t (or shouldn’t) handle, and it keeps aggregating power into the hands of fewer and fewer people, we will get a dictator.

We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.

Let’s put ourselves into those shoes.

We’ve voted and said, “We want free healthcare for all. We want free education for all. And we want equal opportunity for all.”

But the government continually fails to deliver on its promises (sound familiar?), and the people become disillusioned (also sound familiar?).

We (the people) lose trust in our government because it can’t seem to do what it’s supposed to. We begin to think the government is broken (even though we were the ones that broke it).

New candidates arise promising to “drain the swamp,” or “fix Washington.”

What are they trying to fix? A grid-locked government… that we grid-locked.

New candidates promise to “fix Washington.” What are they fixing? The gridlock… that we, the people, created.

Then, lets say an economic downturn happens. Not only has the government failed to its job, but now we are losing our jobs.

We get afraid and angry, thinking, “The president/congress/whomever said they would fix this. And they haven’t. In fact, things are worse. We need to empty congress and get people who will bring real change. Enough of the status-quo.”

But at this point, the only person who can break the gridlock is the very person you don’t want to be president.

Instead of realizing how our votes created the problem, we demand leaders who can actually “get things done.”

We eventually arrive at a scenario where the people are irate, the government is at a stand-still (because no one is willing to make the hard calls), and a voice of hope emerges…

This voice promises they can fix the problem. They promise they can make the hard calls. They promise they can get the government back on track.

And they can.

Why? Because they’re morally questionable enough to do things others are unwilling to do.

They use the public unrest to pull more and more power into their hands. They are willing to jump over obstacles and remove legal hurdles to accomplish the mission.

They push against the limits of their power… because they don’t respect that power. And the people, in essence, have asked them to override it.

It goes like this:

The People: “Fix the problem!”

The President: “I can’t without breaking the law.”

The People: “Fix the problem!”

The President: “If you say so…”

Okay, maybe it doesn’t go quite like that, but you get the point.

If we voted for a socialized healthcare system, and the government couldn’t produce one, how would we respond if the president just wrote an executive order that outlined how it would work?

Legally, he can’t do that. But given the right economic situation, even the people of the United States could be okay with this.

And then, before you know it, the Jews end up in concentration camps.

Why? Because the very person who had the skill set to accomplish the job is the very person you don’t want in the oval office.

They a populist, and a populist generally has no qualms breaking the law to make the people happy… and centralize more power into their hands (but that’s just a side benefit…).

How did we get here? How did this happen?

Well… we got what we wanted: A government powerful enough to do what we’ve asked it to do.

The Road to Good Intentions Is Paved With Hell

Hillary supporters are crushed and terrified that Trump has become president.

Why? Because they fear his power. Because the Office of the Presidency is more powerful than ever, the president has real power to cause real change… Or real tragedies.

So, Trump opponents are terrified of what Trump will do with that power. And it makes them anxious.

But would we be okay with Hillary having that kind of power?

If we want the government to be powerful enough to solve social ills (or “protect” conservative values…), then we have to accept one truth: We want a quasi-dictator, as long as we agree with them.

That is not a judgment. I am not trying to condemn anyone. I am merely revealing a fatal flaw in our thinking.

If you fear a Trump presidency, I ask you to think about why.

Do you want a government powerful enough that you have to truly fear the other candidate winning?

Do you want a government powerful enough that you have to truly fear the other candidate winning?

If you feared a Hillary presidency, I ask you the same question. Are you okay with one person having that much power?

Republicans and Democrats are both guilty of this. I’ve railed on socialized healthcare in this post because it’s an easy example.

But republicans have done the same thing, and I’m 99% sure we’ll see them do it again early next year.

And you can bet I’ll point it out 🙂

How To Restore Hope and Trust In Our Government

The solution to this problem as an obvious answer: Limit the power of the president so they don’t have as much power.

Unfortunately, our Constitution already does this, and our Congress and Supreme Court have pretty much allowed the president to become a quasi-dictator.

So, the real answer is that we need to re-learn what it means to American. Most people don’t understand how our government is supposed to work, and therefore, they don’t realize how it has gone off track.

But, some of these ideas may leave you skeptical…

Or you may think my arguments too simplistic.

That’s fair. I can’t formulate a complete treatise on the purpose of government in a single post.

I would, however, invite you to better understand my position. You don’t have to adopt it, but you can certainly examine it.

You can do that by reading my short book on American politics, called American Resurrection: The Failure of the U.S. Constitution and the Rebirth of a Nation.

Its short and easy to read. You can get it on Amazon.com, or you can download a free PDF version of it here.

But even if you don’t check it out, I still want to hear your thoughts.

Should the president be as powerful as they are today? Would that even solve “Trump anxiety”?

I’ve really enjoy engaging with your ideas and perspectives in the comments. So comment away.

About Sean Edwards

Sean Edwards is an author and a communication strategist. He graduated from the Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in history. Sean has a passion for discussing philosophy and American politics.

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  • I love your article Sean!

    Thanks for laying out what is at stake. Political discussions often focus on the question of whose policy (or character) is better or worse, while the question of constitutional limits gets ignored.

    We should be getting ready to have these discussions now!

    • Sean Edwards

      Thanks Cody, you’re right!

  • Eileen

    History suggests that people, this country is no exception, wants an elected King (or Queen). Such elected monarchs are no different than inherited monarchs except that succession isn’t by birth or gender. So, while we do have a constitution that grants us rights, and by and large, people do want the first, second and fourth amendment rights, it is not clear that the rest of the Bill of Rights are important. Just my thoughts.

    • Sean Edwards

      You are correct about history, but are we doomed to repeat it? Our founding father’s didn’t. They built a new history, and I think we can as well.

      • Hilary

        So true. American was and can be the greatest country on earth. We just have to stop “drinking the kool-aid” and get the hell off Facebook. I read an article the other day about how liberals like myself tend to use social media to vent about our election misery, and while it’s great to talk about it, we are just simply speaking to people that already think the same way. So it’s kind of like a dog chasing its tail.

        Also, we have to decide whether or not we want to accept change or not. Half the country thinks we need real change, and the other half thinks we need to go back a hundred years. The world is constantly changing. What happens if we decide to not change with it??

      • Sean Edwards

        Hilary, I have a problem with the conservative desire to return to the “good ol’ days” as well. When was that, exactly? When women couldn’t vote? Or when a simple tooth infection could kill you? Or was when people didn’t shower for days on end? Or when the average life expectancy was 40?

        Thank you for commenting!

  • Mary

    Funny how other countries manage to institute universal health coverage. If health care is a right, how can it not be a government concern? The Republicans are now determined to get rid of Medicare and Social Security, both of which I like a whole lot, now that I have them. I grieve for my children and grandchildren. We have every reason in the world to be terrified. Steve Bannon as chief of staff. A world in shock at what we have done (I was just abroad, and that’s real). Wanting his kids to get security clearances. Gigantic conflicts of interest with his holdings. The disdain for journalists. Do not lecture me on how this is more about me than it is about this misogynistic, racist narcissist we have just elected.

    • Sean Edwards

      Mary, if healthcare is a right, how is that enforced?

      Can on person’s right violate the right of another?

      For healthcare to be a right, you must either levy a tax, or you must make doctors and nurses offer healthcare for free… which is slavery (forced labor, without pay).

      So, option 2 is out. That only leaves levying a tax.

      Today, we’re used to the idea of taxing people to cover the cost of a government program. However, I would like to challenge us to reconsider this concept. It may seem normal today, but hasn’t been normal in the past. For the first 150 years, we didn’t have social welfare programs like we do today. We didn’t even have property or income taxes until the 1910’s.

      Taxes are good when they’re protecting and enforcing our rights. Meaning, taxes are ethical when they’re used to make sure other people don’t assault us, put us in slavery, or steal our stuff. We’re paying for a service. We’re paying for the government to enforce our equality with all other people.

      But, that’s not happening with healthcare. The government is taking money (by force) from one person to pay for another person’s health bill. That is a nice sentiment. We want to help people. But we’re stealing to do it. Our intentions don’t matter. Stealing is stealing.

      Money can only change hands in one of two ways: Either by trade, or by force. There are no other options. Either I choose to give you money, or you must take it from me by force.

      I couldn’t force you to pay for a homeless person’s health bill… so why can the government? Isn’t the government just made up of people? And doesn’t our government get its power from the people? So, how can the government do something that an individual could not?

      Charity has to be completely voluntary. Otherwise it is just a nice word for slavery.

      I want everyone to have access to healthcare, but access to healthcare isn’t a right.

      Now, I don’t support just striking down Social Security and Medicare, because people like you have made life plans based on them. Taking those programs away instantly wouldn’t be ethical. However, phasing them out would be.

      I know this is a big pill to swallow, but just ask yourself: Is it ever okay for me to force my neighbor (at gunpoint, if necessary) to donate to the charity of my choice? If so, in what scenario can happen? And if its not, then why do we allow the government to do it?

      P.S. – Just so you know, Steve Bannon is not going to be the Chief of Staff. Reince Priebus (head of the RNC) will be. Bannon will Chief Strategist.

  • Marta

    Thank you. For those of us who understand that our government is based on checks and balances it seems like common sense. I am sad that some educators, who should know better, have not taken this moment to teach just that and encourage involvement. The Trump phenomena is not a singular event, but one we should consider along with the largr number of Republicans voted into office over the last six years. The Democrats lost the House early on in Obama’s administration. Why? I think educators (and maybe the media…although they have their own agenda) should have taken advantage of this as a teachable moment.

  • Tom Hodge

    Great topic for discussion, Sean. The problem is ancient: Julius Caesar was a populist who was able to take power from the Senate by “getting things done”, and creating the dole, free food to all Romans!
    But in the US the grown of the executive/bureaucratic state goes back to Congress passing laws that delegate what is effectively legislative authority to agencies that write the rules on complex matters like environmental and financial regulation. yes, these issues can be too complex and technical for congressional committees to work out all the details in the legislative acts, but rules drafted by agencies should have not binding effect until ratified by Congress. This is especially true of rules that would have criminal penalties. No one should be fined or go to jail for violating a rule that Congress did not specifically approve.

    • Sean Edwards

      Yes! This.

  • MJ

    I have friends on the left who are filled with anger and are lying awake at night fearing the Trump administration. Me? I did a write-in candidate so knew my candidate wasn’t going to win, but I decided to vote my conscience. Both parties could have brought forth better candidates. I’m willing to see what results will happen before I get overly upset and concerned, though.

    I look at the number of Federal, State and Local employees (https://www.census.gov/govs/apes/) and sometimes I’m horrified at how large and complex government has become. Millions of Federal employees, not even including the military. In some states dozens up to hundreds of thousands of employees in State government. Less for local. State and local governments are often the largest employer in that area. I’m a member of local government which to me seems much more responsive to people than higher levels of government, but total numbers especially for State and Federal government are massive.

    The fear and anger coming from people over the election is due to not trusting the other party or individuals. I think that if people really understood that by tolerating or supporting so many regulations and executive orders from one president or agencies, all of that can be unraveled by the next. And what a waste of time and money to watch the pendulum swing back and forth, making sweeping changes at both ends, unraveling what was just accomplished. Perhaps we’re too far gone to go back to simplifying our lives by paring down government in our lives, but I’m beginning to think we’ve swung too far with government and now are faced with fear or anger at the possibility of one person or a party making changes that may not even involve legislating. What Trump may do might be the opposite of Obama in removing executive orders, but in some ways it’s probably the same by legislating from the executive office. Both parties are guilty of this.

    • Sean Edwards

      MJ, thank you for commenting! I have a lot of similar thoughts. I do think we can fix these issues, though. I personally think the best way for us to move forward is honor individual rights, which has substantial ramifications on government. I’d encourage you to check out my book, American Resurrection. But even if you don’t, thanks for commenting. I appreciate it!