Denial: You live your life outside of politics. You ignore everything political, you reject that there might be a problem or you simply assume the government will take care of you or leave you alone. Or, you're politically minded but not a partisan.
Anger: Something changes. America goes to war, or a political party wages war on everything you know and love about your country. Or both. You become angry and find an outlet for that anger. You're angry at the political process, you're angry at the system that could create such dysfunction. Your response is not so much logical as it is emotional. You have a visceral feeling, a compulsion, a need to be active, to feel like you're making a difference.
Bargaining: You win. You find out that winning isn't everything. Governing is hard. Maybe too much damage has been done. It turns out that some of the people you support break their promises. Some of them would be called showers in French. They have affairs, they act like human beings ... but you still have to support the party! Because the alternative is evil! They will destroy America! You're still doing the right thing ... And the politician I like is awesome!
Depression: Why do it? Everybody is terrible. No matter who controls the government, civil rights will slowly be realized but there will still be special interests who will always find a loophole or a court decision or a way to break through, and what can you do? Why should you care? Why was all your work for naught? There is no new politics. And the one good politician was an ephemeral dream that I projected onto someone who, in the end, was just a human being.
Acceptance: There are some things we can change and there are some things we can't. There may always be negative campaigning in politics, or things we don't like. There may be people who are entranced by a candidate we know - from experience - to be a less than worthy vessel for our ideals. There is much malice to wade through, but we don't take it personally. We do what needs to be done.
We work to change what we can change. We strive to be the example that we want others to be. We are accountable to no one but ourselves. At the end of the day, so much we do does not matter. Like morning dew, it evaporates as the sun rises and falls. Still, we can always be true to ourselves. We can always be honest with one another. We can debate, discuss, and discern without the vitriol we decry. We may not have been the ones we were waiting for, but we are the ones that we must see in the mirror.
For some reason, this relatively minor US Senate primary and runoff - what could end up being no more than a beauty competition where the grand prize is a seat in a dunking booth - has left destruction in its wake. Weeks of organizing to save North Carolina's General Assembly were lost. A couple of statewide Democratic organizations have been neglected. Relatively minor banter has been escalated, sometimes - it seems - just so a person has an excuse to get angry.
Most of the back and forth is bunkum. The childishness may be a part of politics we can't change - but childish acts will be forgotten, and will wash away. Any claims that one barb or another will ruin our chances in Novemeber are as childish as the barbs themselves. We can only change how we act, and strive to be better. The Senate race may be a lost cause, and it shouldn't be allowed to destroy friendships, or organizations, or the chances of Democrats in other races.
Sometimes, the mature solution isn't to ask everybody else to grow up; it's to mature yourself. If nobody took the malarkey personally, there would probably be less of it. Politics attracts some socially maladjusted people who like to elicit reactions, and we've all been feeding the trolls - or we've been using the trolls as an excuse to abdicate the responsibility that we asked for when we became informed participants in our democracy. "Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy," as Linklater says ... but withdrawing in the disgust we create as an excuse is no better.
I want to be able to look at myself and know I did my duty. I'm driving people to the polls, I'm making calls, I'm raising money. I'm using my education. As well, because I aspire to a certain level of honor, I apologize for any cross remarks I may have made. I apologize for the times when I took things personally to the detriment of others. Nevertheless, I do not and will not apologize when I have stood behind reasoned opinions that stem not from emotion, greed, or awe but from a reasoned awareness of what we have to do to win. I hope all of you can do the same, not with malice, but as an iteration of the logic that flows from the premise we all share: a Republican US Senate and General Assembly will be harmful to our State and our Nation in a way that a Democratic majority, however inadequate, can never be.
Party on, Blue NC.