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In Northwest Arkansas and across the country, it's the morning after.

That's a phrase most often used to describe the aftermath of something one might regret, such as awakening to a needed recovery after an evening of imbibing too much.

What’s the point?

Elections are important, but what happens between them is pretty critical, too.

It's typically a reference to a period when we've realized what happened and recognize there's a price to be paid. Sometimes, it includes a headache.

This morning, we awaken to the United States after the mid-term elections.

How's your morning after? Is it bringing on a headache, one that may last two more years? Or are you awakening to the benefits of what you view as responsible ballot box behavior the day before?

The polls closed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Who knows when the votes were finally tallied? Hopefully, either elsewhere in this newspaper (if vote counting went exceedingly well) or at readers can learn the results of their local, state and federal elections. As these words are committed to the page, we know nothing of the outcomes. We packed up and left the office just a few hours after news reporters arrived for their long evenings of jotting down giddy reactions of ebullient victors and chasing down the vanquished, who are almost always harder to find on election night. Major kudos to those who ran good races and lost, but still stood ready to speak in acknowledgment of a fact of our system: Someone will win and someone will lose.

The morning after always brings to mind the question: Now what?

Every election, it seems, earns commentaries that speak of historic moments. Has there ever been an election that someone somewhere didn't classify as "perhaps the most important election of our lifetime?" Such dramatics. The reality for all Americans is that the next election is always the most important. The results of yesterday's votes may please or disappoint. In whatever case, they help determine what another two-year window in the history of our nation will look like and sets the stage for what may eventually need to happen two years from now in the next general election.

Did it go your way? And maybe more importantly, how will the outcome affect how you respond?

Elections, without question, are vital to heath of our republic. In the complex journey of a 242-year-old republic, they are mile markers of history. But let's not overstate what happens on Election Day. The United States isn't a product from a Ron Popeil infomercial. We don't get to "set it and forget it," or if we do, there are usually serious consequences that come from such behaviors. What happens between elections matters every bit as much as the individual choices one makes on Election Day, probably more so.

So what should Americans work for starting today and into the next two years?

How about encouraging political officeholders who not only acknowledge the possibility of compromise, but embrace the history of compromise upon which so much of this nation's greatness can be credited? The Constitution of our nation itself was formed through the art of compromise; the very nature of our bicameral legislative branch arose through the give and take of competing interests. But the greater good of the nation was paramount.

How about reading? And by that, we mean beyond the headlines. Naturally, we believe newspapers make a strong foundation because their coverage goes beyond 30-second videos or short blurbs on the radio. Books help, too. Sneak a little American history in between those mysteries or romance novels. Seek out books that dare to explore ideas from angles different from your own. At the least, it will more strongly confirm one's viewpoint. It also might open one's eyes to a new thought. Either situation helps to ensure one's viewpoint is based on something beyond ignorance.

How about engaging political leaders in respectful discussion? That doesn't mean berating someone whose record supports an opposing viewpoint. It means looking for opportunities to visit with city council members, county justices of the peace, state lawmakers or even congressmen and senators. And to those officeholders, we ask this: Are you listening more to people or organizations with lobbyists than you are to people who live within your districts or wards? Are you listening only to those whose company you like to keep? Officeholders need to be skeptical of their own certainty on issues so they can let other ideas in.

How about reacting less to social media memes designed only to get knee-jerk responses? If you're constantly sharing memes that oversimplify complex issues, you might just be part of the problem. How about seeking to be part of a solution instead?

And finally, how about intentionally setting out to value someone who doesn't think like you do? Stop thinking in terms of them vs. us, even if that seems to make life simpler.

Elections matter a lot. But the choices each Arkansan, each American makes each day matters even more.

Commentary on 11/07/2018

Print Headline: Now what?

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