Election Diary
November 16, 2020
Well, once again I return to my diary after an unexpected ten day (plus) break.  The first two breaks were due to physical health.  This latest break is due to the tedious turn in the post-election news.  But I have rallied… and written today.  Looking forward to your responses.

My email server has switched formats on me, so I am hoping you are all able to get this and read it. If not, let me know.

We shut down public worship in Salem for ten days, due to six of our people getting Covid-19.  We also have 11 pastors in our district that have caught it.  Jie is also temporarily closed down in her two churches due to several cases.  

I use today’s diary to reflect on my post-election feelings.  As we wait to see whether the Senate is Republican-led or Democratic-led (to be decided in a January 5 runoff election) we continue to tread through a zone of uncertainty.  My two essays are about tedium and exhaustion.

I have been reading some stimulating books.  Greg Grandin’s The End of Myth:  From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America reminds me that we all subscribe to myths (truths that cannot be contained by facts), including myths about what it means to be “America”. When a myth is operating in the background of our minds, complete with heroes and villains, there is little room for outside facts.  

I’ve also been fascinated with George Friedman’s The Storm Before the Calm:  America’s Discord, The Coming Crisis of the 2020s, and the Triumph Beyond.  Friedman proffers the thesis that America reinvents itself on a cyclical basis: each time we are unable to solve our problems the establishment’s way.  His historical reflections, if not his predictions, make the book well worth a read.

And James A. Morone’s Republic of Wrath:  How American Politics Turned Tribal, From George Washington to Donald Trump, gives another insightful historical read, especially tracing the role that race, immigration, and gender have played in American elections.  In the past, the party that supported Black Americans tended to differ from the party that supported immigrants.  And neither party paid any attention to women.  Now, with immigrants, Blacks, and women generally all looking to the same party, the anger and the competition has grown more fierce.

Finally, I picked up a book at the library, Ian Wright’s Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds:  100 New Ways to See the World.  There is also a website, CLICK HERE.  I include one of his maps below.  If all the people who did NOT vote in 2020 would have voted for a third candidate, that candidate would have gotten enough electoral votes to become president.  In other words, “Do Not Care” won once again in this country, despite record turnouts this election.


Tedium:  the quality of being weary, irked, bored… (from the fat Random House dictionary)

Dear Diary,

I began suffering a full onslaught of tedium the day after the election.  Even a four-day suspense over who won would not cure it.  I don’t understand.  I love politics; I love history; and this election will go down in the history books as one of the most incredible of all.  Over these past five years, the escalating hostility between Trump-land and Aghast-land has been caffeine to me.  I have kin and skin in this fight.  How can I possibly be afflicted with tedium?

In times like these, there are two books I trust:  1) The Holy Bible and 2) my fat dictionary.  In this case, the fat dictionary has been more enlightening.

It seems I have an intolerance for any “dispute” that shrivels into a “quarrel.”  But happy day, a dispute that progresses instead into a “collaborative argument” is not only medicinal for me, it is restorative and invigorating. Thinking logically, therefore, the cure for my tedium is to filter out all quarreling and embark on quest for some collaborative arguing.  

Dispute:  A disagreement based on a lack of commonality.  In every relationship, we have areas of commonality …and areas where we lack commonality:  race, age, language, education, gender, diet, culture, occupation, perspective, life-experience, family, religion, anxieties, dreams, myths, morals, entertainment…  Disputes are part of life.  Therefore, so that we are not overwhelmed and disoriented by a buffet of diversity, we all have a built-in immunity that shields us from ideas and practices that are strange.  A dispute occurs when we contest (at first) those matters that are alien to us.  We can, of course, override that repulsion toward the odd and actually find ourselves pondering, risking, experimenting, and even adopting ideas and behaviors that were once anathemas.  But a dispute is the activity of arguing against what is unpalatable.  

Quarrel:  A dispute that destroys friendships.  Quarrels are peevish, fueled by insecurities and grievances, lured by phantoms and conspiracies, immune to reality, prelude to an obsessive-compulsive disorder.  

List all the good things you can about Mr. Trump, Mr. Schumer, Mr. McConnell, Ms. Pelosi… they are, nevertheless, all quite disordered.  I listen to all of them quite a bit, and I’ve heard almost nothing but quarrels from any of them.  And that goes for FOX news and CNN as well.

Quarrels are tedious, even if we favor one side or the other. There is no end to them. Even a decisive election cannot end them.  And an electoral win of 306-232 IS decisive.  A five million plus vote margin is stunning.  There is no credible evidence for fraud, even according to Republican election officials and judges.  Yet quarrels do not end.  Nearly two weeks after the election, the garbage from the White House continues.  And progressives will never move on, even though one of their most quarrelsome organizations is oxymoronically called “Move On.” 

And so I suffer from tedium.  

The cure starts with identifying every quarrelsome person and news medium …and then quarantining myself from them.  As a pastor, however, I cannot disassociate from everyone who is quarrelsome.  And so I use my influence and independence to steer my interactions into non-quarrelsome areas.

But even with such stern abstinence, I am not fully cured of my tedium.  For that, I need large and healthy doses of collaborative argument.  

Collaborative argument: seeks out different ideas and then makes them wrestle.  It traffics in logic and rationality.  It does not become defensive.  It maintains curiosity even when offended.  It insists on evidence.  It respects rules of debate. Science and history, while always tentative in their truths, are respected and authoritative. Collaborative argument always does the math.  The goal of collaborative argument is to bring opposing ideas together in order to create synthesis and synergy. Paradox is honored.  Humility is essential.  Audacity and assertion are part of the process.  So are inquiry and retreat and conversion.  

In other words, disputes are part of any rich and interesting life.  Even if we turn the news entirely off, we still experience disputes (a lack of commonality) in our churches, marriages, families, and friendships.  It is possible to elevate those disputes into collaborative arguments.  The alternative is letting a dispute shrivel into a quarrel.

Few people seem to know the art of collaborative argument.  It isn’t enough for me to avoid quarrelsome people.  It isn’t enough for me to confine myself to people who think like me.  Even some of my conversations with like-minded friends can be merely quarrelsome.  We may not quarrel with each other (since we tend to agree on politics) but we actually do nothing but reinforce each other’s quarrelsome approach to politics… by agreeing on everything.

I’d like to lead a workshop on collaborative argument, get some input from my friends, have a good argument about my thesis. This constant quarreling is a demonic virus all of its own kind.  The infection has spread everywhere.  Important matters are before us, but we are afraid to talk to one another, even in such sanctuaries as our churches and friendships. 

The election is over.  Donald Trump is just being quarrelsome.  It’s getting tedious.  The numbness is setting in.  Can we change the subject away from his tedious antics and have a real argument for a change? 


This election evoked our passions, angers, hopes, and anxieties.  Almost 150 million people voted, the most ever in an American election.  We had the highest turnout rate in over a century.  In other words, we really got into this election:  for better or worse.

And it wasn’t just this fall.  It has been going on for nearly four years.  Donald Trump held his first re-election rally in December of 2016.  And Democrats vowed even earlier than that to make him a one-term president.  (Just as Republicans vowed, in the words of Mitch McConnell, to make Barak Obama a one term president.)  In all, 1,192 different people ran for president against Donald Trump, including two well-known Republicans and twenty-four well-known Democrats. We spent $6.6 billion on the race for the White House.  (Another $7 billion plus was spent on federal senate and house races.) 

We are spent, exhausted.

To pour gasoline on the situation, we had a president who declared in advance that if he didn’t win, it would be because of fraud.  He produced no evidence, just the poison of rumor and innuendo.  We all went crazy once this narcotic idea oozed out.  And crazy really leads to exhaustion.  

And then we were forced into over-time:  election results trickled in.  It took four days to feel reasonably certain of a winner. Unprecedented numbers of lawsuits kept the election on artificial life-support.  And Donald Trump, we are told, is too fragile to be told the truth about his defeat.  And so the whole world humors him, which exhausts us further.

I love elections.  I love reading about elections.  In the past four weeks, I have read Lewis Gould’s book, 1968:  The Election That Changed America, Ronald Shafer’s The Carnival Campaign:  How the Rollicking 1840 Campaign of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too Changed Presidential Elections Forever; David Pietrusza’s 1960 LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies; and Roy Morris’s Fraud of the Century:  Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876. 

I am ready and eager to read more history books on elections.  But I am exhausted, for the time, about 2020.  

Therefore, Dear Election Diary, I’ll continue to write off and on:  a little here and there about 2020… with a boost now and then from my history books.  

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