With everything going on in the US and the world, more and more people have been interested in using their voice. This is a great thing! But many people have never been involved before, so they don’t know where to start. These tips will get you going, and be sure to check out the resources I’ve shared, which will take you to experts in these different areas.
Read – I can’t emphasize this enough. Read the news from credible sources (New York Times, Washington Post, your local paper, etc.). Read about what’s happening in the world, in politics, in things that interest you. Know what’s happening, what will affect you, what will affect the things you care about, and more. And double check things with multiple sources if something seems fishy or even explosive; it’s better to wait 5 minutes before posting to check that the thing you’re going to talk about is actually happening. Sign up for The Skimm, a free daily newsletter that gives an overview of what’s happening. If you’re a student, you can get a subscription to The New York Times for $1 a week, and if you’re not, you can get basic subscription for $2.75 a week.
Call your federal representatives (from both parts of Congress) – One semi-easy thing you can do is let your representatives know how you feel about particular issues. They work for you, and telling them how you feel about something can give them an idea of how their district or state feels about it. The most important part of this is that you call your representatives; don’t call those for any other state or district unless it’s something like a national survey. For example, several months ago, Paul Ryan was taking calls through an automated system to get a feel for who wanted the Affordable Care Act to be repealed. In that case, anyone could call in. But 99% of the time you need to call your personal representatives; if you call others, you’re often taking up time (or mailbox space) from the people who that person represents. Emily Ellsworth worked for people in Congress and knows a lot about the best way to do this. Check out her e-book Calling the Halls: Contact Your Representative the Smart Way to learn wayyy more! You can also use Common Cause to find your elected officials, bills they’ve introduced, and more.How to get involved in the political system (even if you never have before) Click To Tweet
Research your local state representatives – One thing that constantly amazes me is that the people who often make the decisions that impact us the most are the people that are often ignored: state representatives and senators. Figure out who your representatives are, when your state congress is in session, and what issues are coming up. Especially with everything going on right now, finding out what your state lawmakers are up to and contacting them about the issues you’re concerned with can make a difference. It’s easier to prevent a law from passing than to get it repealed!
Check out people who have different opinions than you – This past year or so has been especially polarizing, so I think it’s important for everyone to try to understand how people feel. See what the other side is saying, try to learn why some people are upset about issues that you’re not upset about, and so on. Understanding our fellow people will help us come together to make positive changes, and this is especially helpful if your representatives are of a different political party than you. But let me be clear about this: I am not talking about trying to understand the alt-right (aka Neo-Nazis), racists, homophobes, etc. Don’t give them your time of day, and especially don’t equate them with opinions that matter, like small vs. big government.
I understand that this might be the first time a lot of people are getting involved in politics, and I recognize that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, I think that the results of the election can really show us that hoping everything works out and not getting involved doesn’t, in fact, work out. If everyone stands quietly on the sidelines, nothing will change. This is the time for your voice to be heard. If there was ever a time for everyone to speak up and do something, this is it.