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'Away from the noise': How Liberal Americans are coping with Election Day anxiety

BERKELEY, Calif./NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rachel Richardson, a lifelong Democrat, is spending Election Day hiking trails along the Pacific Coast with her two daughters and a fellow mom with her kids in tow.

Daughters of David and Rachel Roderick use a map and candidates' pictures up on the wall to learn how the U.S. government works in Berkeley, California, U.S., August 27, 2020. Picture taken August 27, 2020. David Roderick/Handout via REUTERS

The 41-year-old Berkeley, California, native who voted for Democrat Joe Biden early said she decided to plan a three-day camping trip to stay away from minute-by-minute election news here and keep anxiety over the potential reelection of Republican President Donald Trump and the pandemic at bay.

“I think it’s now time for me to get a good night’s sleep, a few nights in the fresh, clean air with no WiFi signal anywhere in sight,” she told Reuters. “Away from the noise of people’s responses.”

Richardson and husband David Roderick spent the past months educating their children about the election and government along with about two dozen families from one of the most liberal U.S. cities while supporting candidates in key senate races.

Opinion polls show Biden ahead nationally and in many key states, but liberal voters are worried about another upset after Trump, a former real estate developer and reality show personality, unexpectedly won the 2016 election.

“I’m anxious because we know how the last election got swayed and the way that things went,” said 38-year-old Jonathan Krieger after casting his ballot in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday morning. “I think staying away from the news is my biggest remedy.”

Many Democrats despise Trump, whom they see as a threat to American democracy, a liar and a racist, and struggle with the president’s bombastic style and norm-shattering behavior. His supporters admire his lack of convention and what they call straight talk.

Record numbers of Americans, more than 100 million, cast early ballots by mail or in person, leaving little to do but worry until votes are counted. To soothe their nerves, some liberals have doubled down on their pandemic-era coping mechanisms: running and exercising, yoga, meditation or writing.

Sylvia Baer, a New Jersey resident and lifelong progressive who has been quarantining in Florida, is spending the day locked away in her home office in Fort Lauderdale, writing short stories and poems.

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“I’m writing like crazy,” said Baer, 70, adding that the day had so far brought more excitement than scare. “However, I will have a lovely gin and tonic on hand later this afternoon. Or two.”

A professor of American literature and a poet, Baer began writing short memoir-like stories as the coronavirus ravaged her home state and shares them on Facebook as a way of coping with the stream of dreadful news.


The presidential campaign, which pitted Trump against Biden, has tested the nerves of many Americans already exhausted and grief-stricken by months of the unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic.

It also has further exacerbated the already sharp partisan divide here stoked by Trump during his four years as president.

In historically Democratic Ann Arbor, Michigan, sculptor Joe Szutz said things were going as planned at his home in a battleground state that Trump narrowly won in 2016.

“I’ve been taking it kind of slow. I did some cooking in the morning and I did a workout. I’m doing some writing now on the computer and staying away from the TV,” said the 77-year-old Democrat, who dropped off ballots for himself, his wife and his 18-year-old daughter, voting for the first time ahead of Election Day.

Szutz said he planned to take advantage of the unseasonably nice weather and rake leaves in his yard.

Registered Democrat Lisa Shapiro, a journalist in New York City who cast her ballot before dawn on Tuesday, said she had set up the ironing board to cut up the fabric for the masks she plans to sew later in the afternoon and into the evening.

She enjoys sewing, something she learned during the pandemic. “It’s almost the sound of the sewing machine, touching the fabric,” she said.

She is not ruling out making a chocolate sheet cake and enjoying a dram of whisky early in the evening.

Classes were canceled at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law on Tuesday, and Emily Bruce, the school’s director of equity and inclusion, offered a 30-minute guided meditation session to cope with the anxiety many students are struggling with.

“The hope is to offer this as a tool for finding some relief from that,” she said.

Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee in Berkeley, California, Maria Caspani in New York and Ben Klayman in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Editing by Caroline Stauffer, Steve Orlofsky and Grant McCool