Election Day and its resulting chaos is so 2020.
As I’m writing this, there are still a bunch of unknowns. We don’t have final vote counts for a handful of states. We still don’t know who will control the Senate. The Trump campaign has filed litigation in multiple states. And, quite frankly, no one knows when we’ll figure any of it out.
It’s overwhelming and tense. And we all feel like just shutting it off. But I have a challenge for you: Don’t disengage.
It’s the same challenge I issued following President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. Rural Americans turned out for him in droves. And victory belonged to them. Yet I cautioned that we couldn’t become complacent, regardless of who was in the White House or controlling Congress. Farmers need to always stay engaged in the process, watch elected officials, and stay vocal.
I took a lot of heat for that statement at the time. To be fair, most of the heat came from my use of the #MAGA hashtag to promote the piece. (I maintain, even now, that I only used it for promotional purposes, not because I endorsed or supported it. I try hard to maintain neutrality on such things.) But tensions were high following Trump’s surprise win. And everyone had something to complain about.
Not much has changed this time. In fact, I’ve been appalled to see otherwise reasonable people have social-media meltdowns. One page administrator posted that half the country were bigots. On the flip side, someone else claimed half the country voted to destroy our families by imposing an oppressive socialist regime. We’ve dehumanized and created monsters out of our political enemies. That’s not OK.
Forever an optimist though, I’ll renew my call for rural Americans to stay engaged. No matter which party controls the White House or controls Congress. We don’t have the luxury of sitting back and letting things hum along without our input. We need to be engaged, active, and heard.
This time around I want to expand my plea: Please, please, please do your part to turn down the heat. Our country is so divided, and our elections are too close to call for days. The rhetoric keeps rising and erupting into violence. And half time it feels like opposing sides are operating with the same set of facts.
So let’s try this. Before you get into a heated argument, try listening without responding, seek understanding, and give your fellow Americans the benefit of the doubt. Get beyond personalities and talk about policy, Drop political slogans and talk substance. I still believe that people on both sides of the aisle want what’s best for our country and all of us who live here. But if we can’t even talk to each other, this great American experiment dies.
How many of us have actually sought understanding? How many of us have said, “Hey, I’m voting for [candidate], and you’re voting for the other guy. Can you help me understand why?” Instead we resort to name calling, conspiracy theories, and doomsday prophecies.
The problem is even more acute for those in agriculture. Farmers are less than 2 percent of the population. Our voice is drowned out unless we find commonalities with people outside of our industry to help us amplify our concerns. And the only way to do that is to have meaningful conversations about substance and policy. We help people understand by finding those common values and creating relationships.
Here’s the best part. Our lives are enriched by the relationships we cultivate. (Yes, it is possible to be friends with people who don’t agree with you (as one of my best friends demonstrates, it’s even possible to marry one!).) So while we stay engaged, we can also add value to our existence. I know, it’s a lot easier to throw around memes on social media. It’s a lot easier to call the other side names. But I promise doing it another way will be worth the effort — for us, agriculture, and our country.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.