A fair number of political analysts are making the point that they barely remember when a primary season mattered less. It is unusual – but not unprecedented – for two presidents to go head-to-head in a general election. Like it or not, this scenario has caught the current zeitgeist of the voters as they mentally leap from today to November 5, 2024. And it’s making for a lot of election anxiety.
With Iowa and New Hampshire in the rearview mirror, the US political calendar is approaching the apex of the season. Nevada’s strange and complex primary system, featuring both a straight beauty contest and delegate-rich caucus two days apart, will be first up in February, followed by South Carolina and Michigan. But the big kahuna in state party contests is March – and the 15 elections of Super Tuesday are only part of the March madness. Georgia, Arizona, Ohio, and other biggies all fall in that month.
Yet there is so much chatter this election cycle about whether the primaries really matter with the big two – Donald Trump and Joe Biden – at the head of the class. The pervasive feeling among political analysts seeping into the voter consciousness is that this year’s primaries are almost perfunctory. While that may be true, there is some justification to slow down a bit and take things step by step to avoid paranoia.
Election Anxiety Caused by the Expected
Most folks expect the big guys to go at it hammer and tong, but the pitfalls of those expectations are aplenty. Areas for concern include Donald Trump’s 91 indictments. It feels like the former president’s attorneys are playing the Whac-A-Mole arcade game. Thus far, they’ve managed to avoid any catastrophes; however, Republicans who support Trump are acutely aware that his legal issues could go off the rails at any time. An expectation that he will again be the standard bearer of the GOP nomination is generally accepted, but if the unexpected happens – what then?
One might offer up Nikki Haley as the answer to that query, but it’s no secret she is not a darling of the MAGA movement. Ms. Haley certainly has her strong points and remains the last “man” standing in the GOP primary field running against Trump. However, any way you turn the former South Carolina governor’s Rubik’s cube, she just doesn’t appeal to the majority of America First stalwarts.
The Unknown Ratchets Up the Fear
On the other side, the Democrats are expecting – there’s that word again – that incumbent President Joe Biden will rise to the challenge of taking on and beating his predecessor once again. However, their anxiety has reached a fever pitch as well: Does he still have the “right stuff” to go the distance? How well can Biden handle the two key issues of the porous border and the economy when many see him as the architect of both problems?
CNN’s Van Jones recently said out loud what is keeping many Democrats up at night: Mr. Biden should “stay hidden” because he “doesn’t inspire confidence.” Yes, the expected is fraught with peril.
In the “hey, you never know” category, there is widespread anxiety from the left that the current president is no longer fit for the office that he seeks to maintain, as is evident from Jones’ comment. Most Republican voters would argue he’s never been up to handling the enormity and complexity of being the commander-in-chief, but they’re expected to have that point of view. It’s folks from his own party expressing concern that their man could tank physically or mentally that brings out the Xanax.
Dealing with Election Anxiety
Voters need to remember a few things about the upcoming election: Much of it is out of their control. There’s nothing anyone can do about Joe Biden’s cognitive health or whether some court will convict Donald Trump of one thing or another.
The second antidote to political anxiety is to take it one day at a time. Looking beyond the primary elections to the general is not a recipe for peace. So many things can happen between January and November, and there is reason the good Lord parsed out days in 24-hour increments. Even the biblically illiterate are familiar with the Scripture that says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34 NIV).”
Finally, those suffering from pre-election anxiety might want to take heart that America is built on the foundation of a strong and resilient US Constitution. Our founders had the foresight to put their most salient points to pen and paper. That document still survives, and we do well to lean on it – especially in such a time as this.