Yesterday, the U.S. experienced one of the biggest midterm elections in decades. Voter turnout soared from a little under 37 percent in the 2014 elections to somewhere north of 49 percent. Young voter turnout increased by a whopping 188 percent.
But now, the elections are over, and some of us may be feeling a sense of letdown. Leading up to the elections, we knew what our duty was: get out and vote. But now that the ballots are in, you may not be as sure how to create change in your community.
Changemaking doesn’t only happen on election days; rather, it’s a day to day push. Below are a few ideas about how you can take daily political action and keep the wave going.
Talk to Your Officials
One of the most important ways you can stay politically active is to contact your representatives. State representatives are elected by popular vote, which means they are highly interested in keeping their constituents happy. Therefore, the majority of elected officials want to hear what their constituents – you – think.
It can seem difficult to keep up with the issues that are going on in your state and stay in touch with your elected officials about them. But apps like Countable put that process at the tips of your fingers. Write, call, and send emails and letters.
If you live in a state where your representatives support policies you believe are wrong, contacting them can seem like an exercise in frustration. Remember, not calling only reinforces the belief that the actions they are taking are okay with all their constituents. It’s important to make your voice heard.
Choose Your Sources Wisely
Of course, before you can vote on issues, you need to be informed about the issues. Reading the news is one great way to stay politically involved, but you want to choose your news sources carefully. When you click on a certain news source, you support their voice, even if you don’t support their message.
Social media is where this really comes into play. If a public figure you disagree with or a news platform you know to be unreliable posts a story, it can be tempting to repost it with a comment arguing against it. However, this gives these sources more influence; it’s better to stick to reliable sources you agree with.
Part of choosing a good news source to support is knowing which ones tell the truth. The term “fake news” has been thrown around a lot in recent years. While that term has often been abused, it is true that in the age of the internet, it’s important to check facts before you pass them on.
Checking the truth of a story only takes a few extra seconds, and it can make a huge difference. The spreading of false information makes it easy to skew people’s understanding of what is actually happening in the world (the hysteria surrounding vaccines is a good example of this at work). Making sure a story is true before you share it is an easy way to make sure people get the right information to act on.
Talk to the Other Side
While you do want to make sure to get verifiable information from sources you support, it’s also important to make sure you don’t get stuck in a political vacuum. These days, our country seems to be so divided that it can feel wrong to talk to people on the other side of the fence. But it’s one of the most crucial things you can do to make daily change.
Our country was founded on the belief that it takes all types to make a country go. Even more than that, we have to remember that every person on the other side of the aisle is just that – a person. They have reasons they believe the things that they do, just like you, and learning about those reasons can help you be more compassionate and find new solutions to our political issues.
Challenge yourself to talk to someone who holds different political views than you do at least once a month – maybe once a week. Ask them why they believe the things they do and what they want to see in the country. If you’re not sure where to start, people like Romain (who spoke at our Ignite Retreat) are working to reach across the political divide and promote compassionate understanding.
Focus on Solutions
Part of the goal of reaching across the political divide is to work together to create innovative solutions that can work for all parties. As such, we have to focus on coming up with ideas to solve our problems during these discussions, rather than arguing. It can be easy to only complain about what’s happening in the world, but in the end, that isn’t productive.
Imagine what might happen if, for one day, everyone spent all the time they usually spend complaining about politics searching for solutions instead. We’d have some amazing ideas in no time. Challenge yourself to go a whole week without complaining about politics; when you get the urge, instead, ask, “What can we do to fix this?”
There’s an old adage that says that nothing beats showing up. Whether it’s when a friend needs a hand, when you need someone to get something done, or when you want to impress someone, that advice holds true. It also applies to participating in the political system.
Staying in touch with your representatives is wonderful, but it can be easy to write off an email. It’s much harder to discount or ignore someone standing in front of your desk. Get out in person and go meet your representatives and engage in political discourse.
Find out when the town hall meetings in your area are, as well as city council and school board sessions. Go talk about the issues that are important to you. You can be a part of making change at the community level.
Take Daily Political Action
The energy surrounding these midterms was huge, and now that the elections are over, we have to make sure that momentum doesn’t die. We can be catalysts for change in our community every day. By taking daily political action and staying involved, we can reshape the world into something better and stronger than ever before.
If you’re looking for resources to help you get started making a change in your community, visit the rest of our site. The Sullivan Foundation supports changemakers, whether that be recognizing their hard work with our prestigious award or providing scholarship dollars to students starting out on their path. Check out our website to learn more about how we can help you today.