My election year promises
Let's talk about the elephant (and donkey) in the room
I didn’t realize how desperately I’d been clinging to the leg of 2023 until the calendar year turned over. When 2024 appeared on my iPhone lock screen I had to reluctantly acknowledge…
…the US election year had officially begun.
I spent early January in a political news blackout (ok, gray-out), mostly plugging my ears and training my attention on a certain Calvin Klein ad campaign.
But I’ve emerged now, ears and eyes open. The circus has begun, and oddly it’s a relief. The anticipatory dread was worse than just feeling the feelings, including the actual dread.
This time around, I refuse to be buried by overwhelm. My time and attention is precious and I won’t allow it to be usurped by campaign machinery.
Nope. Not doing that again.
Rather than waste energy avoiding political reality, I’m simply going to do what I can.
In that spirit, let’s address the elephant (and donkey) in the room: how (and how much) we’ll talk about the 2024 US election here at Parent of Adults.
I want to share how I intend to show up as a writer with respect to politics.
Tl;dr1: thoughtfully, quietly, respectfully, and with restraint.
I also want to make you some promises.
I know for many (most?) of us political talk is as appealing as touching a hot stove. But I hope you’ll keep reading even if you have zero (or less) interest in the 2024 US election.
If now’s not a good time, then when you’re ready, perhaps wearing your coziest hoodie and drinking a cup of tea.
How about we just not talk about politics?
My political engagement is connected to parenting so not talking about the election doesn’t make sense.
Becoming a parent activated my sense of stewardship. I’m doing what I can to leave this place better than I found it. Not perfectly, not all the time, but as best I can.
We need places where we can take refuge from the onslaught of political coverage. But there’s a difference between coverage and conversation. I’m talking about actual conversation with other thoughtful humans. This isn’t the Facebook algorithm or troll-filled newspaper comments; we’re a group of smart, generous people who’ve gathered based on what we have in common. We’re building a culture of mutual support here.
I don’t plan to write much about the election, but I take seriously my responsibility to participate in thoughtful dialog. Politics shouldn’t be spoken about in whispers, nor given voodoo status. It’s a regular part of American life, and we should treat it as such.
Decisions that impact our lives for years and decades to come get made in the halls of government. I want us to be able to talk about that, specifically as parents of adults.
Many of our kids are voting this year, some for the first time. I want us to talk about how momentous this is, and how we can support them as voters, not just in 2024, but for the rest of their lives.
I have no intention of turning this newsletter into my political megaphone. But I do want us to be able to comfortably talk about voting and the election, and support each other as the campaign gets underway.
My promise: I’ll talk about politics thoughtfully and with restraint, and will maintain a culture of care in the comments.2
What if we don’t agree with each others’ politics?
There are thousands of us here. I assume — I hope — we represent a spectrum of political views.
Political parties are distinct from one another. The whole point is contrast so voters more readily pick a team and stick with it.
But we, as individuals, can hold many things in common without agreeing on every political detail. It’s all about nuance and context. That this shocks anyone shows how diminishing and reductive political tribalism can be.
Stereotypes get manipulated by people more interested in winning elections than improving the health of the country. I’m not playing.
Here’s what I said towhen she interviewed me for her book, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto (affiliate link/policy):
Kindness — going into a conversation with a generous assumption of good intent — is, for me, a conscious decision to push against…politicians and other people in power who are trying to drive wedges between us. My being kind is a mindful statement staying that I reject intentional manipulation by powerful people who are trying to turn me into some puppet in their little ‘us vs. them’ war — a war I don’t even believe in.
I’m not interested in false equivalence or slogging through political arguments. I am interested in fostering a community that contains multitudes.3
If you’re kind, open-minded, and respectful, and you come to the conversation in good faith and prepared to listen, you’re welcome.
My promise: I’ll talk about politics honestly and respectfully. Disagreements welcome; fight-picking, passive aggression, personal attacks…not.
Hopefully this breaks the ice around how we’ll talk about politics in the months ahead. It’s a lot, I know. 2024 is going to be a lot. But we have agency over how, where, and with whom to engage. We can take care of ourselves and each other.
I’m fortifying myself against election stress by paying attention to my daily rhythms. Food, movement, sleep, laughter, connection with loved ones, novelty/learning, media breaks… it all helps.
I’m titrating my news intake so I stay informed without becoming paralyzed or numb. No “breaking news” alerts or multiple check-ins. I learned the hard way that news-checking can be just as addictive as social media.
I’m being more mindful about how I talk about the election and the candidates. If the conversation veers toward cynicism or hopeless venting, I gently move things along.
Notes, links, and other bits of goodness ✨
Related: A post I wrote in October 2023 about one’s sphere of influence and doing the good that’s in front of you.
On balancing news consumption with self care, I’m with.
When it comes to thoughtful political conversation, my heroes are Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers of Pantsuit Politics. They go beyond intelligent commentary; they give voice to the greater human experience of this political moment. I come away from every episode better informed and with a warm heart. Their newsletter is top-notch, too.
Sarah and Beth have written two books: Now What? How to Move Forward When We’re Divided (About Basically Everything) and I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations.
We’re going to get through 2024 together.
I’d love to hear how you’re caring for yourself in this political environment.
Comments are open to all for one week after publication; thereafter to paid subscribers.
Thanks for reading Parent of Adults, a conversation about life beyond the empty nest with writer Asha Dornfest and a super-thoughtful community of subscribers.
Asha is the author of Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids, inspired by her decade-long community blog, and Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Family Life More by Doing Less with Christine Koh, which led to their co-hosting 250+ episodes of the Edit Your Life podcast.
“Too long; didn’t read.”
If you’ve been with me since the Parent Hacks days, you know flame wars were rare. (Flame wars! That sounds so quaint now!) I’m a fair but firm comment moderator. When I sense things are going south in the comments, I’m on it.