The Long Political Season is Upon Us

Suggestions to Stay Informed, Yet Stay Sane

We Are Off to the Races

If you think you have already been awash in political news, arguments, and solicitations, stand by. This has only been the warmup. Both the pace and the volume are sure to pick up and be sustained at high levels for about the next six months – which will perhaps feel like an eternity as we deal with all that information and disinformation.

And the deluge will be coming from every imaginable outlet. From the internet, emails, snail mail, phone calls, text messages, TV and radio ads and analysis. Heck, look up occasionally and you might even see someone sky writing or towing a banner with a political message. What we have been seeing the last few weeks was only a slow start.

 How Much News, Email, and Solicitation Can You Handle?

Knowing all this is coming, now is a good time to ask yourself how you might hit the right balance. How to be an informed, energized citizen and not someone so overwhelmed that you give up and absorb nothing?

In fairness and honesty, this is important stuff at a critical time for our country. So, buck up a bit. Be prepared to take on and take in more than you might normally do with such material. Some issues and candidates are obvious and easy to sort out, but others are more subtle and complex. They deserve some of your time and attention.

The challenge is to structure your “case load” so that it does the job at about the right level of exposure and absorption.

 A Road Map Through November

 My suggestion is to take a little time now and map out your strategy for what is ahead. Look at the sources you can think of and make some up front decisions on what/who gets your attention – and your money. You likely are getting more inputs than you realized. If you are like me, I signed up for many of them. But now might be time to shorten that list a bit. Let’s go down a possible check list.

 Newsletters and Clipping Services

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of honest, traditional journalism. I subscribe to my local paper in both electronic and print editions. This means subscriptions to some nationally known newspapers electronically and I am on specific interest areas clipping or referral services they send materials on – about a dozen of them, give or take a few over time.

I use a few other clipping services and special interest links. Several magazines that I think are top notch in various disciplines have me on their subscription list. Like many of you, I cruise the internet incessantly, chasing leads to interesting stories or exceptional analysis. Although I dislike much of it, I also spend time on social media. And I occasionally go to sites I KNOW I will disagree with. You need to see what others are thinking and saying – especially those with whom you disagree.

All that works for me most of the time – I am a curious fellow. I am delighted to have the time and resources to peruse through all this material. But this time of year, the volume and frequency ramp up to levels that demand too much time and concentration to absorb it all well.

This is a good time to look at all your subscriptions and recurring electronic sources. You might be surprised how many email lists you are on, for example, because you signed up for them. Look at giving yourself a bit of a sabbatical and cut off a good percentage of them. You can pick them back up in the Winter, but for now you need less clutter in your email box and mailbox. Thin the heard to the best of the best. Spend more time on fewer inputs.

 Politically Related Emails

Consider creating an email folder for those you really like and save them to recheck issues and positions. For those you do not wish to see again, two steps can help (not 100% effective but they help a lot).

First, such emails have an UNSUBSCRIBE tab, usually in very small print at the bottom. Use it to get off their mailing list. Some seem to ignore this, but many will do the right thing.

Second, do NOT delete that email just yet. Move it to your JUNK file. Most email programs will figure out you don’t want this stuff after you move it to JUNK 2-3 times. Once a month or so, scan the junk mail file for anything that looks relevant and delete the rest. This is the fate of 90% of such email that I receive.

 Solicitations for Funds

 We all recognize that is you ever donate a dollar to any candidate (which we should do, by the way), two things happen. One, that candidate will ask you for more donations with regular frequency. Two, that list of contributors is likely to be sold (hey, they are fund raising every way they can) or it was generated in the first place by a clearing house operation, like Act Blue. You will, therefore, be the recipient of countless invitations to share your money.

Two steps are helpful. One, put political contributions into your planning budget. It is fine to contribute to good candidates and campaign worthy of your support. But set a budget so you know what you want to work with. Two, pick a few candidates and a few organizations that deserve that support.

There are useful organizations that can use your money effectively to support many candidates (a party senatorial campaign, for example). Others not associated with a party do important work (Common Cause comes to mind first). Support these folks and read their mail.

Don’t feel guilty about ignoring the rest. For example, giving $10 to 10 candidates might make you feel good but it’s not a very productive relationship. Pick 1 or 2 and give them each $100 – you are making a difference.

Revisit the Plan Twice

 Recheck your list of things you keep/read sometime in the Summer. Are you getting about what you hoped for? Are you feeling reasonably informed but not swamped? Adjust as needed. Then when the election is over, look at it again and see if you want to bring back any sources you cut back on earlier.

 When It’s All Over

 In the quite of the Winter, ask yourself is you have felt any gaps of information. This applies not just to politics, but to culture, economics, the arts, technology – whatever tickles your fancy.

Once the political storm has settled, invite yourself to learn more. Start doing online searches, asking things like “best space information, humor in America, climate news, have the Republicans yet noticed that their soul is dead?” Whatever interests you, I promise you there is a ton of good stuff out there. You just need to go on the hunt.

Have fun. Buckle down, buckle up, and drive on, America.

           Bill Clontz

If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do three things:

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Let’s grow our circle.


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