NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, November 5th, 2018

What to expect on Election Night? Nothing! Why it’s best to have no expectations at all

It is a cap­i­tal mis­take to the­o­rize before one has data. Insen­si­bly one begins to twist facts to suit the­o­ries, instead of the­o­ries to suit facts.”

– Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sher­lock Holmes (A Scan­dal In Bohemia)

Tomor­row evening is Elec­tion Night 2018, the zenith of the 2018 midterm elec­tion cycle. The cycle does­n’t tru­ly end until all the bal­lots are count­ed and the results are cer­ti­fied, so it’s a mis­take to char­ac­ter­ize tomor­row as the end or the finale of a gru­el­ing elec­tion — it’s real­ly the begin­ning of the end as opposed to the end.

The mass media, impa­tient for data to breath­less­ly report, is spec­u­lat­ing (as usu­al) about what tomor­row night’s results could look like. This, in my view, is a very coun­ter­pro­duc­tive exer­cise, par­tic­u­lar­ly after the events of Novem­ber 9th, 2016.

I salute every pun­dit out there who has coura­geous­ly refused to offer or make a pre­dic­tion about the results when prompt­ed by a tele­vi­sion anchor or radio host.

Here is the truth: no one knows what is going to hap­pen tomor­row.

No strate­gist, no can­di­date, no prog­nos­ti­ca­tor, and no poll­ster can see into the future. Any­one who claims to be a seer or a know­er of events yet to tran­spire is not to be trust­ed, peri­od. And pub­lic opin­ion sur­veys, while unques­tion­ably use­ful, only give us an idea of where the elec­torate might be, not what will hap­pen when an elec­tion is actu­al­ly held. We have no defin­i­tive data until results start rolling in, and it is sim­ply not a good idea to the­o­rize before data is available.

Right now, we can draw some con­clu­sions about turnout because we have defin­i­tive data from an elec­tion in progress. We know how many bal­lots have been returned in states like Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, for exam­ple, because coun­ty elec­tions offi­cials are reg­u­lar­ly report­ing those sta­tis­tics. What we don’t have is data telling us how many vot­ers vot­ed for which can­di­dates. That will become avail­able start­ing tomor­row. Until we’ve got it, we’re all best served by hav­ing no expec­ta­tions at all.

This is eas­i­er said than done, of course. We humans don’t like uncer­tain­ty; in fact, bad news has been demon­strat­ed in research stud­ies to be more palat­able than uncer­tain­ty. But try­ing to fill the void of uncer­tain­ty with expec­ta­tions is just not a good idea. It won’t move our coun­try for­ward and it won’t make you feel better.

If you do not have to work at a day job tomor­row or can afford to take the day off, pick a cam­paign that you want to help and donate your time to that campaign.

Instead of watch­ing cable news, obses­sive­ly check­ing Nate Sil­ver’s blog on FiveThir­tyEight, and scrolling through your news feed on Face­book, try get­ting a good night’s sleep and reserv­ing your wak­ing hours for pro­duc­tive activities.

For exam­ple:

  1. Eat­ing a healthy break­fast (and grab­bing lunch when mid­day rolls around)
  2. Med­i­tat­ing for at least a few min­utes (put all screens out of reach!)
  3. Going for a walk, bike ride, or swim to get your blood circulating
  4. Con­tact­ing vot­ers to ask if they vot­ed (by phonebank­ing, tex­ting, etc.)
  5. Sign wav­ing with a campaign
  6. Pro­vid­ing rides to the polls or bring­ing a friend’s bal­lot to a drop box
  7. Help­ing peo­ple who are wait­ing in line to vote (if you’re not in the NW)

Notice these sug­gest­ed activ­i­ties have two themes: (1) Self care and (2) GOTV.

Give your­self time to think and to do use­ful work that you want to do. Rec­og­nize any feel­ings of anx­i­ety, but don’t stew over those feel­ings. Own your time.

Don’t wor­ry about Elec­tion Night — it’ll arrive soon enough. Take deep breaths, focus on work that will make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence, and do that work.

Again, own your time. You don’t want to wake up on Novem­ber 7th wish­ing you had done more for a cam­paign you care about. Face­book and Insta­gram can wait. The Inter­net will still be there when you’re done get­ting out the vote and tak­ing care of your­self. Cable news and sites like FiveThir­tyEight can spare your atten­tion dur­ing these crit­i­cal hours before the polls/drop box­es close.

If you walk your precinct and check up on your neigh­bors by going to their doors, you can do sug­ges­tions #3 and #4 simultaneously.

Remem­ber, the true activist is a doer, not an observ­er. Our democ­ra­cy is at stake in this elec­tion. Par­tic­i­pate — don’t spec­tate. Get­ting out the vote will coun­ter­act any feel­ings of anx­i­ety you have and leave you feel­ing sat­is­fied instead.

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