I liked the old sergeant who said, “Every day is election day.” What he meant had more to do with him asserting the premise that he was the toughest son-of-a-buck in the platoon and you were welcome to try to disprove that, almost certainly to your embarrassment and bruises.
But I interpret that statement in a different way. To “elect” means to choose. It can certainly mean voting for a candidate or on a ballot measure, but has the broader application to how we choose to live our lives far beyond the realm of politics.
To me, “every day is election day” means that each time you wake up, you have a decision to make. Will I be kind today? Will I work hard today? Will I follow my dreams or fall into self-pity? Will I care for my fellow humans or resent and fear them?
It resonates with me because it means that every day is a new chance. Sure, people will react with surprise, skepticism and scorn sometimes when you start off on a new path, especially where diets are concerned. But they’re just “electing” to go to the easy default position of doubting the possibility of somebody improving themselves. It’s a popular stance because it justifies our own unwillingness to diet or exercise or volunteer or kiss the girl or clean your garage or anything else that carries the possibility of falling short.
How, you may be wondering, does this apply to the most contentious presidential campaign in half a century or more? If the polls are to be believed – and why not, unless you are into conspiracy theories – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both disliked by the majority of Americans. We may be seeing the first time in which the next occupant of the White House would start on Day One being despised by a large swath of the electorate.
It applies because although the president is the most important single politician in the nation, he or she is not the king (or queen). Unless either candidate’s party wins control of Congress, we are headed for four more years of deadlock. Not much will get done at the national level.
So what are we to do? Turn our energy and attention to the local scene. That’s where there’s the greatest chance to actually change the quality of your life. Do you think that Hillary Clinton will do much to fix Westminster’s budget problems? Would Donald Trump resolve Huntington Beach’s wrangles over high-density development? Would either help Garden Grove rebuild its downtown?
Once we have cleared the decks of the political car wreck of the 2016 race for the White House, maybe we can start “electing” to put the focus where it always belonged: improving the quality of life for you and your neighbors. Regardless of who takes up residence on Pennsylvania Avenue, let’s choose to pay more attention to what’s happening on Brookhurst Street and Beach Boulevard.
Jim Tortolano’s Retorts column appears each Wednesday if the creek don’t rise.