I heard a strange rumor recently that there are people out there, far, far away, who don’t spend the majority of their time thinking about politics. Instead of obsessing over tweets, binging on cable news 24/7, and pulling their hair out over the all-caps STATE OF OUR NATION, they’re — ahem — living their lives.
I envy these people. But for many of us, politics in the era of Trump has demanded our nearly undivided attention. I’m not talking about those of us whose jobs require it, but everyday Americans who feel as though politics has become too important to ignore.
Some are part of the so-called Resistance, the legions of Americans who for one reason (or all of them) believe President Trump is the single greatest threat to our democracy and way of life. And some are Trump supporters, who believe keeping him in office is the single most important issue of their lifetimes, that Trump is quite simply the last thing standing between a white nationalist civilization and the culture-canceling Visigoths.
Either way, for many Americans, politics, and especially presidential politics, loom large over nearly every aspect of life. It often determines where we live, how we spend our time, what we watch, who our friends are. Everything from watching football to mask-wearing has become politicized,
That is, to put it gently, awful.
Politics and government weren’t meant to be the omnipresent center of gravity in our daily lives, all but replacing family, community, work or church.
Our elected officials were never meant to be celebrities or cult figures who demanded our undying attention and adoration. Presidential elections weren’t meant to be four-year-long events that bleed seamlessly into one another. Our psychological wellbeing shouldn’t be dependent on who is in office.
And yet, American anxiety levels are at a fever pitch, and politics is a huge factor. Per the American Psychiatric Association’s “Stress in America” survey, in 2018, 69% said the future of the nation was a significant source of stress, while 62% said the political climate was. Those numbers rose in the wake of the 2016 election, and long before the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is simply not sustainable. And that is why the Biden campaign is smart to not only address the constant chaos and confusion of the Trump administration, but to promise to return the outsized stature of politics to its rightfully diminutive place if elected in November.
A new Biden ad opens with this question to voters: “Remember when you didn’t have to think about the president every single day? And instead, there was someone in that office who thought about you?”
According to CNN, the ad is part of a national cable campaign targeting black voters, but its unquestionable appeal is far from limited.
“That line captures how a lot of people feel,” a Biden aide told CNN. “You want to be able to pick up your phone in the morning and not be outraged or scared. You want a government that works.”
Or, a government you simply don’t have to think about all that often; a government that exists merely to govern, and not consume your every waking thought; a government that revolves around you, and not the other way around.
It has been harder, obviously, during the pandemic, the exact time when you need government to step into an outsized role. But Trump has shrunk from that responsibility, instead making it about him, accusing Democrats of using a virus that has killed more than 180,000 Americans under his watch to hurt his re-election.
A good grasp of the role of government has proven elusive to Trump during the racial and civil unrest that’s tearing through the nation, too. Instead of using the bully pulpit to calm fears, he has used tear gas on peaceful protesters and threatened military involvement, only ratcheting up the tension.
Trump’s understanding of government is almost always wrong: absent when you need it most, intrusive when you need it least, and existing only to fulfill his own self-interested needs.
We sure could use a break from this. Now more than ever, we need to focus on healing our families and our communities and not on the federal government. And we need a president who gets that.
So, I don’t need Joe Biden to promise to solve all our problems — he shouldn’t. But if he’s promising to be less important in my life and yours, well, that’s frankly the kind of relief we all desperately need.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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