I voted for John McCain in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012 and Evan McMullin in 2016. Nice record, right? Goodness, I know what it’s like to sit on the losing side with a battered yard sign and fears about the destruction the other candidate will wreak upon our nation. Nonetheless, I’ve learned even when your candidate loses, there’s still so much good you can do. And you can be even more effective when you collaborate with those whom you might disagree with politically.
If you’re worried about religious freedom, higher taxes, the rise of socialism, the rights of the unborn, first and second amendment rights, you still have a tremendous amount of power. You can work for the causes you believe in on a local level and affect policy nationally.
Look, you and I might disagree on politics, but we probably share many of the same values. You love your family. You cuddle babies. You take dinners to your sick neighbor and work on school carnivals and rake lawns for the elderly. You cherish freedom; you work hard and you like things to be fair.
Here’s the truth: most people share the same values; we simply prioritize them differently. And that’s a good thing. I’m often amazed at the many good causes my friends pursue: protecting vulnerable children, Special Olympics, collecting surplus vegetables for the food bank, providing prenatal care in Uganda, tutoring struggling math students, etc. No one can do it all, and we need people who feel strongly about varied issues.
Unsurprisingly, our key values affect our vote. We vote for the candidate who prioritizes issues we care about the most. Consequently, when our candidate loses, it’s easy to build up fear around the causes we value most.
Over the last four years, I learned one person can do more for the causes they value than I ever imagined possible. My voting record may not resemble yours; we may work for different purposes. Still, we both have tremendous ability to do good in the world.
When Trump won the election in 2016, my family felt discouraged. While we knew we would be fine, we worried about our refugee friends from Rwanda; we worried about our immigrant friends. We worried about the example of a president who used name-calling, ridicule, and cruel words to describe anyone who disagreed with him.
Even during Trump’s campaign racial and religious motivated bullying skyrocketed in our public schools. Kids were flashing swastikas in hallways, threatening Hispanic kids with “the wall,” and using racial epithets freely.
The day after the election, we sat down as a family and my oldest son said, “We can complain, or we can make it better. And if we really believe people need protection, we have a responsibility to help.”
So, we helped. We tutored our Rwandan friends in math and reading. Working with our school principal, I created Holocaust awareness and anti-bullying assemblies. Republican or Democrat — no one likes bullying in schools.
We wrote to congressmen, made phone calls and even helped with hate crime legislation. When need arose, I built websites, created videos and ran social media campaigns. We did not work tirelessly. In fact, we just put in a bit here and there. Still, at the end of four years, our efforts made a difference.
The wheels of government turn slowly. And while lawmakers are debating, you can get so much work done on the ground with the power of your convictions and just a few hours of time.
Even in Utah, where Republicans claim a supermajority in our House of Representatives, very few laws get passed without agreement from the majority of Democrats. At the end of the day (or the legislative session), reasonable voices from both sides come together and create laws benefiting the majority of Utahns.
I too, am wary of too much Democratic power in Washington, D.C. Still, I have faith in the processes of our government. At the end of the day, reasonable voices will come together and create laws benefiting the majority of Americans.
In the meantime, I’ll get to work on the ground. During campaign season I asserted I didn’t mind voting for a pro-choice president, because abortions decrease when a Democrat is in the White House. I’m going to make sure that’s true by supporting pro-life programs. I’m looking for ways to work with people on both sides of the aisle to increase education, support young mothers and make sure every child is wanted, well-cared for and loved. If I help one mother, one baby, I’ll make a tremendous difference.
Bottom line, even if your candidate lost the election, you haven’t lost your ability to contribute to your community, and you shouldn’t lose hope. You can make your voice heard; you can cultivate better outcomes. When we work together, we can increase peace in our families and communities, combine our resources, and create real change in the world.
Michelle Lehnardt is a mother of six, writer, photographer, one of the founders of MWEG and Women of Faith Speak Up and Speak Out and sits on the board of the Anti-Defamation League.