In July, Pew Research Center reported that “most Americans already feel election coverage fatigue.” July! More than three months ago. And in those three months, it’s safe to say that no one has gotten any respite. The news cycle has churned forward, the conversations have devolved, and the fissures revealed by the primary elections have turned into gaping crevasses.
This week, Pew published a new report, positing that people are so tired of talking about the election that they won’t even argue about it on social media (and people will argue about anything on social media). According to the research, twice as many social media users report being “worn out” than those who actually like seeing political discourse online.
Translation: This exhaustion is both a cause and a result of the nature of the discourse, as this line reveals:
Meanwhile, roughly half of users feel the political conversations they see on social media are angrier (49%), less respectful (53%) and less civil (49%) than those in other areas of life.
The situation is so dire that USA Today is recommending we all look at cute animal gifs, while CNN is offering up tranquil nature shots. In our own attempts to deal with election fatigue, Uproxx News editor Kimberly Ricci and Uproxx Life editor Steve Bramucci traded emails on the topic in hopes that it might spark useful conversation (or at least allow the two of them a chance to vent).
KIMBERLY: I don’t feel weird claiming election fatigue on a personal level, but I have problems expressing as much. That’s probably because my job as a news editor and writer includes discussing Donald Trump several times per day, seven days a week. So, I have to — for better or worse — turn off my own personal feelings, despite what anyone may read into our content, including my own posts.
Election times are always stressful for the people who cover them, but this is an extraordinary election. One candidate claims roughly 90% of the headlines for a reason. He’s out there, as visible as humanly possible, while performing multiple times daily. I used that word for a reason. The world is truly a stage for Donald Trump, and despite his insistence to the contrary, his actions are those of someone who wants us to watch and report on everything he does. He incessantly rage-tweets at 3am, he’s literally operating at all hours, every day. He’s an exhausting candidate.
Beyond politics, Trump has also exposed my own personal lack of “stamina.” He loves that word, but honestly, there’s never a moment when Trump news stops. News is always 24/7, but never has it so consistently revolved around one person for a solid 15 months. Trump has desensitized the nation in that way, but he’s also crafted the media response around him in ways that he doesn’t enjoy. He doesn’t appear to understand why refusing to provide his tax returns resulted in a Saturday night document release. It’s constant. The media and nation needs a Trump vacation, but will we receive one?
And you know how I am, Steve. I can be a little grumpy at times. So, there are moments when I do wonder why those who don’t work in media can complain so much about Trump fatigue. They’re not fighting a war, although Trump’s grown an army of extremely vocal army of defenders. Most people I know don’t have to monitor Trump 24/7, yet they still do so and claim as much fatigue as I feel. So, I need you to explain this to me. Why does he drastically exhaust Americans who possess the luxury of turning off the television?
STEVE: I feel very weird claiming election fatigue. I’m a white, heterosexual male, so to say that I’m worn down by political talk (or Trump talk) feels like a very privileged viewpoint. If I did claim that, the counterpoint could be made, “Fuck you and your election fatigue, I’m fighting for my human rights — I don’t have the luxury of being fatigued!” My own girlfriend, an Iranian immigrant, could (and has) made that case with much success.
I long to be an ally to anyone fighting for equality, and therefore reject the idea of fatigue as in, “I need to step away from these discussions for awhile.” To disengage would make me complicit in the racist, sexist, transphobic, Islamaphobic, nationalistic rhetoric that has dominated this cycle. To extricate myself from conversations about politics, even for a few days, during this strange era in American history feels like a shitty thing to do. It’s selfish and not in line with who I want to be.