The election of Donald Trump in 2016 led to four years of resistance. From his first executive order of the Muslim ban, we have been resisting his inhumane policies, his rhetoric, and his lies. But where do we go now? How do we avoid apathy? We must remain engaged and move from resistance to active political participation.
The political landscape has changed over the last few decades, resulting in too many Americans who distrust institutions and party politics — particularly among the younger generation and impacting their engagement with political activism. What do I mean by political activism? I mean the ways in which citizens choose to express themselves politically and how they make this choice. To be successful, mobilization needs to be focused on what is required to be an active participant in a representative democracy. Activists need to comprehend the channels that influence elections, governments, and the policymaking process. They must understand the importance of voting in elections, working for campaigns to get out the vote, phone banking and using social media. A false narrative tells us that activism on social media is just “clicktivism” and not real “activism.” I believe that activism online is now part of the cycle of political engagement. Nonetheless, there are ways to become more efficiently engaged.
First, activists must educate themselves. Information can be found online easily but must come from credible sources. Part of an activist’s education is staying up-to-date with events as well as understanding the historical context of political situations. History may reveal that Donald Trump was only a participant in what was already a historical change in the Republican Party. Do we fully understand how this transformation came to be? We cannot approach activism without knowing all the facts. Historical context can also be better understood at the local level.
The importance of supporting local organizations cannot be stressed enough. Actively engaging with local political parties and groups like DemCast and Indivisible is vital because lack of support in local politics causes Democrats to lose local but important races such as state legislatures. Before approaching these organizations, think about what you can offer or what you can research. You need to add strength to these organizations. What unique skills or abilities do you have to bring to the table?
As well as getting involved with local organizations, you must actively engage with your elected officials. This means picking up the phone, sending emails, going to public meetings, and showing up at their offices. You can contact your local officials here. Bring to them your talent, your time, and your treasure.
The Amnesty International Campaigning Manual highlights that handwritten letters have the most impact as they demonstrate a depth of knowledge and personal concern. We must tell local officials where we stand on the issues. Our input can help create or change policy. If there is no input, there will be no change. Keep communication succinct — officials do not want to see pages and pages of paper. Identify yourself and the issue. Choose focus points and then support your argument, again maintaining brevity so as not to distract from your position. Make your argument personal, explaining how it affects you, your family, or your community. Trust your voice. Be polite and well mannered but firm on your position.
We must move beyond resistance to become wholly engaged in activism. Only then can we assure that we can make change at every level of government. We must start now to make change for 2022. It will take work and it will take time, but it is what is needed. NOW!
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