As a hospice grief counselor, Kirby Winstead knows how to talk a family through the approaching death of a loved one.
“I just kind of ... help them find peace in the process,” said Winstead, a deeply religious 55 year old from Horry County.
As Tuesday’s election nears, Winstead himself has grappled with a different kind of impending grief: the likelihood that Democrat Hillary Clinton, and not Republican Donald Trump, will be elected president.
“We need to understand that God is on the throne and in control,” Winstead said he told coworkers during a Monday morning devotional. “That will not be any less true if we wake up Wednesday morning and Hillary Clinton is elected president.”
The 2016 election will come to an end Tuesday, following months of vitriol in which both candidates have described the other in apocalyptic terms.
The next president-elect will not be the first choice of many S.C. voters. Or the second. Or even the third.
But hold off on booking that plane ticket to Canada. The world will not end Wednesday morning, even for S.C. voters who back the losing candidate.
South Carolina’s presidential losers still have room for hope, political scientists and others say.
One reason for hope?
U.S. politics is a pendulum – no one stays on top for too long.
Neither major party has occupied the White House for more than 12 straight years since Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected in 1952.
Another is the country’s system of checks and balances, designed to keep any institution – or person – from wielding too much power. Political gridlock in Congress, for example, may keep either candidate from getting much done.
And as ridiculous as this campaign cycle has been, America has survived worse: controversial presidential elections in 1800 and 1824, and one in 1860 that led to the Civil War; the Jim Crow era; and the Watergate scandal.
“There have been more contentious and even violent elections in our history,” said Nathan Saunders, a curator of manuscripts at the University of South Carolina’s South Caroliniana Library. “History really helps calm people down.”
Another cause for hope – believe it or not – is the candidates.
Clinton is more moderate than many people think on issues like maintaining military spending, a strong U.S. role in foreign relations and working with business, according to College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts.
And Trump has a history of supporting Democratic candidates.
“He may be more willing to compromise than he let on in the primary and in the general election,” Knotts said.
Still, Tuesday night’s election results likely will send a chill down many an S.C. spine. More than half of American adults – from both parties – say the election has caused them significant stress, according to the American Psychological Association.
The search term “move to Canada” spiked on Google in March as Trump dominated the Super Tuesday primaries.
One licensed psychologist’s recommendation?
Unplug from social media and the 24-hour news cycle, and spend more time with family and friends, says Gretchen Baldwin, Winthrop University’s clinical coordinator for counseling.
“It can rile you up and often focuses on gloom and doom, and it’s so often one-sided that it’s not actually as balanced as we would like it to be,” Baldwin said. “Odds are if you’re feeling sad or angry or afraid, your emotions will only escalate in that direction.
“Focus in on what matters in your individual life and realize that our country has been through lots of different leaders and continues to be strong. You can trust this process, and odds are you’re going to come out OK.”
Winstead, the pro-life, pro-small government grief counselor, will take solace in something else.
He says he will pray that God grants America’s next president wisdom and the right advisers.
Even if that person is Hillary Clinton.
Coping with defeat
Unhappy with Tuesday’s election results? Here’s what some professionals suggest you do:
▪ Realize U.S. politics is a pendulum. It swings left. It swings right. And not since the 1950s has one party held presidential power for longer than 12 years.
▪ Marvel at our political system — built on checks and balances. A president alone is not very powerful. Congress and the judiciary are equal powers.
▪ Remember our history as a country. We’re survived much worse. The 1860 election led to the Civil War and more than 600,000 battlefield deaths, for example.
▪ Psst, neither candidate is as extreme as the rhetoric has been. Clinton is more moderate than most think. Until recently, Trump was a Democrat.
▪ Unplug from social media and the 24-hour news outlets. Focus on what is really important in your life. “Odds are you’re going to come out OK,” says a Winthrop University counselor.