How To Stay Involved After The Election

It may be the end of the election, but there’s still time to get involved.

Though voting has come to a close and the Presidential Election is well underway, it doesn’t mean it’s time to tune out and stop getting involved in politics. Just the opposite. No matter the results of the election, there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to improving Americans’ quality of life and protecting the rights of all people.

Becoming an active member of your community and an informed citizen is a lifelong pursuit. There are always ways to improve and new things to learn. If you’re new to activism and civil engagement, the amount of work and investment can seem overwhelming. Don’t worry though, everyone starts somewhere and every step taken brings us closer to our goals.

Here are a few general guidelines to help you on your way to involvement.

Get Informed

The first and most important step is to learn about the issues at hand. Pick something you’re passionate about and start there. Learn the history of the issue and then figure out where we are today. Find leaders in your community who are dedicated to the cause and don’t be afraid to reach out. Social media is a great place to start looking. Most organizations and groups have a profile. Sometimes they have links to pre-compiled lists of resources. Other times, they may be happy to share what they know and answer questions, or direct you to someone who can.

In the internet age, there is an abundance of information available to us, which can be a good and bad thing. It’s great that knowledge is no longer behind any significant barriers, but it also means you might get the wrong information if you’re not careful. Find sources that you trust and even then, learn how to evaluate the reliability of the information you consume.

We hear a lot about “fake news” these days. Though it’s a phrase that was created to discredit journalists, many of whom are hardworking and professional individuals, we are living through an epidemic of skewed or falsely woven narratives. It’s very important to learn good media literacy and combat this issue.

When reading any news site or other publication, figure out how they collect their information. What standards of reporting do they hold themselves to? Who are their listed sources? Think about any potential bias this publication may be subject to. Is it a publication with a specific narrative or goal, or do they prioritize straightforward, informative reporting? All of these questions can help determine whether you should trust the publication, or what sort of critical lens you should view it through.

And remember, social media can be a great place to get involved and learn about other’s opinions, but you should never take what people say as the absolute truth unless they have the reliable evidence to back up their claims.

Go LocalĀ 

After you’ve gotten some background information, go speak with members of your community about the issues they face. Is there an issue you have firsthand experience with? If not, can you learn from those who do? Local involvement will bring you closer to a cause than any newspaper ever could.

Most national movements, like Black Lives Matter, March For Our Lives, or Sunrise Movement, have local chapters or hubs that deal in part with the concerns of their immediate community. In some ways, it can be easier to create quick and impactful change on this level. There are often less bureaucratic barriers in place, and less people to mobilize. Then, when communities come forward as leaders, they can inspire larger shifts in culture and policy.

Find local chapters of organizations your views align with, or groups created to deal with specific issues facing your community. Get to know your local politicians and elected officials, from aldermen to city councils. If a politician or council is holding a town hall (perhaps on Zoom these days), attend and take the opportunity to ask them a question directly. These meetings could be a chance to get to know your officials and their policies on a more intimate level. They might also be an opportunity to meet other individuals who care about the same issues you do.

Take Action

If you’ve been able to get informed, and involved locally, then it’s time you put that knowledge into practice. Keep up with the groups you support to see if they are hosting any actions, and then show up to support them, or even get involved in planning. An action could be anything from a protest, to a boycott, to collectively calling legislators and asking for change.

Learning about issues and discussing them with peers is a good first step, and it should be an ongoing practice no matter where you are in your activist journey, but all that talk eventually has to lead to action. That is how change is created, through the collective, and insistent voice of the people demanding better.

Coming up with specific policy changes or demands can be difficult and confusing. You can always look to those who have been involved longer for help, but don’t be afraid to speak up yourself. If you’re informed, and you’ve put in the work, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t use your own voice and trust your own judgement. The realm of politics is not as inaccessible as some would like us to believe.

Become A Leader

At some point, the only step left is to take charge. You may not be ready now, or maybe you’ll always prefer to be on the supporting end, but don’t let fear or self-doubt stop you from doing the work that needs to be done. If there’s no else around to solve an issue, or you think you could solve it best, take the leap.

Start a local chapter yourself. Run for office. Contact your representatives and ask to speak or meet with them. Share the knowledge you’ve learned with others who are just starting out. Local politics are often ignored in favor or more high-profile politicians and issues, but that leaves a huge space open for you to get involved at the ground floor and work your way up. If you’re feeling disenfranchised, or even angry, about how things have been going recently, making a difference, even a small one, could do a lot to change your outlook.

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