So you’re feeling depressed after this week’s GOP sweep? Us too. Blah. Now what?
Look, it’s easy to feel like the task of changing the country’s course is too enormous to fit into your million-hour work week. You’re not wrong. Work is boring, math is hard, days have limited numbers of hours, etc. But listen haters, it’s also unfair, especially to young voters, to cede to depression and pretend nothing can’t be done to un-sweep the Senate, un-idiocize the House, and return America’s statehouses to thought-thinking people. America has a brilliantly designed, resilient form of government. The catch is that you can only see the possibilities if you’re paying attention.
With that cheerleading out of the way, we’ll be the first to admit that determining which concrete steps you can take to affect change is a difficult task. Everything seems so…hard. Fortunately, there are a lot of little ways to contribute that don’t require a trust fund/schedule completely unencumbered by the need to work/being yelled at by a power-hungry psuedo-boss that you aren’t even being paid to listen to.
So…don’t get mad, don’t get depressed, don’t start stress-eating, just take action.
The Basics. If you aren’t doing these things, stop being an idiot.
- Don’t be the idiot that can’t vote. Register. Many states now allow you to do it online, or better yet, on your smartphone. Think of the fun! You can register while holding up the whole line at Starbucks! However and wherever you choose to do it, registering to vote is super quick and easy. Click here to find out more.
- Don’t be the idiot that didn’t vote. Vote in every election, even if it’s an off-year and nothing splashy is on the ballot. It’s fun and you get a sticker! (Also, you get the satisfaction of knowing you did the bare minimum you could as a citizen.) If you don’t like your choices, you can always vote for a third party or write somebody in.
- Don’t be the idiot whose BFF or mom didn’t vote. Make sure your friends and family are registered to vote and show up at the polls on election day. If they aren’t doing this, pepper them with links to voter registration info and tell them where their polling places are. Bothering people is super fun, so that’s a bonus! We make it a point to ensure that even our conservative friends vote. The more invested they are in the process, the more of a chance we have to make them listen to us pontificate at length about our views. This makes them less horrible and makes us feel good about ourselves. Win/Win.
- Don’t be the idiot who doesn’t know what’s going on. Spend some time every day reading, watching, or listening to the news. (OMG, you know what could totally help you with this? Listening to our podcast!) Knowing what’s going on is how you avoid being the idiot who says “I’m not voting because I don’t know about what’s going on.” People of all ages say this every election. This is 100% the worst excuse for not voting that has ever been created. It’s the “my dog ate my homework” of election season. Being up on current events won’t take up much of your time, plus a lot of people you think are boring are actually making really hilarious current events jokes you just don’t get. That’s sad for you.
- Don’t be the idiot who doesn’t know which candidates and parties represent their views. Do your research. If you voted for ballot propositions raising the minimum wage or legalizing marijuana, then also voted for Republican candidates up and down the ballot, you probably messed that up. Think this sounds bonkers? Then why did it happen ALL OVER the country? There’s no answer that could possibly make sense. Stop doing this.
- Don’t be the idiot who’s afraid to say what you think. Talk about current events with your friends and family all year. Don’t buy into the idea that talking about the political issues that impact your life is rude (plus, who cares about being rude? You’re a millennial. Everyone thinks you’re rude already). Always be as respectful and courteous as possible, but challenge everybody to be as informed as you are.
Small Actions that you definitely have time for.
- Be the friend that keeps your circle informed. Be a source of election information, help people identify candidates and causes, and make sure they get to the polls. At the very least, make sure everybody you know can connect with at least one issue. Being invested in something - literally anything - makes people infinitely more likely to vote.
- Be the friend that knows what the voter ID laws are in your state. This is big! Sure, we want to overturn those unconstitutional restrictions, but first we want to make sure that they don’t stop voters in the short term. Take some responsibility for your community. Make sure your neighbors, friends, and family know the rules and help them get whatever ID is required well before the election.
- Be the friend who is involved EARLY IN THE PRIMARY PROCESS. We can’t stress how important this is. We’re hearing many stories from across the country about how people weren’t excited about their party’s candidates. Guess what, YOU get to pick the candidates. If you get involved in this process early, maybe you’ll wind up with an exciting primary race that prevents a Bruce Braley-type from being the boring Democratic senate candidate for Iowa which will then prevent a wingnut Joni Ernst-type from being your new Senator which might THEN prevent the world’s most insane Republicans from taking the senate. It’s like dominoes, people.
- Be the friend that knows how to contact your Congressmen and Senators. Hold your representatives accountable! You and everybody you know can call, email, or visit them at any time regarding any issue. (Yes, you can visit! Their offices are open to the public!) And for all of you who think that sounds like way too much work, or that making phone calls is so 1999, there’s a fancy app that makes it totally mindless. Hooray technology!!
- Be the friend that knows where people should donate. Do we think there’s too much money in politics? Of course! But we all know lazy rich people who just want to throw money at the problem, right? They aren’t exactly building a movement, but you can at least tell them WHERE to throw the money so that it goes to the best causes. Plus, what’s more fun than spending other people’s money for them?!
Be Useful. Easy ways to get involved that aren’t stuffing envelopes or being rich.
- Get involved in an issue. If connecting one person you know to an issue helps at the polls, imagine if you connected hundreds? If you care about politics but feel overwhelmed at the thought of fixing everything at once, focus on a cause you care about - raising the minimum wage, protecting gay rights, student loan debt relief, supporting women’s rights, protecting the environment, etc. Whatever you do, pair it with the steps above and you’ll be giving your favorite local political candidates a boost even as you work towards smaller, more do-able goals. There are lots of ways to get involved. You can volunteer with major non-profit organizations, but you can just as easily start your own group that connects people in your community or on the web. If you’re feeling lost, check back soon for our series on how to start a community group!
- Join your local Democratic Club (or that of your preferred party), even if your politics don’t align perfectly with theirs. Those clubs seem unappealing because they’re plagued by boring meetings and filled with stodgy insiders, but they are the ultimate way to affect party policy from the ground up. Also, many local political candidates come out of regional clubs, so if you’re interested in running for office this is a great place to network (by the way, YOU can run for office. Just this week West Virginia elected an 18 y/o to their statehouse. We can almost guarantee you have more valid experience than she does.) Either way, your presence will help your local party leadership learn about the priorities of voters like you. They probably need to hear from younger, more progressive, and/or more interesting people, they just don’t know it!
- Didn’t like the stodgy insider-y old person political club you tried joining? Start your own! You don’t need much to do it. Just create a website and social media presence, then blog about issues and publish endorsements. Since you’re a motivated, informed person, people should probably be voting like you anyway, right? As you connect local constituents, you can get them involved in campaigning for your candidates at election time or use your group’s network to run your own candidates.
Many of the old-fashioned ways of contributing to the political process sound really unappealing. After a long day at the cubicle-farm, volunteering to do menial tasks for some giant, semi-corrupt political party isn’t on our agenda either. But you have the internet, right? A mind? Great! You have everything you need to do some doing!
Learn from the Occupy model. Anybody can start something. Get involved locally, take advantage of any web-based or social media skills you have, and set practical goals. Start a website to advocate for something you care about, run a candidate for local office, or organize your neighbors to help stave off runaway development. Reach for the stars! Scale that mountain! Use more exclamation points! (And millennials, don’t let them tell you that you’re useless! Use this old HuffPo piece of Lila’s for inspiration!)
Once in the midst of an attack of Bush-era doldrums, a certifiable genius who will remain unnamed said to us: “Nothing can’t be undone.” Politically, there is always a (potentially annoying, frustratingly slow) way to fix things. Focusing on that is better than focusing on how terrible everything seems at present. Plus, don’t we as millennials hate all the knocks against us? That we’re too lazy, addicted to Instagram and Netflix and just generally awful people who don’t care about the fate of our country? Don’t let that be how we’re remembered by the next generation.
So, in summary:
-Educate yourself on issues that will define the next cycle
-Educate others on issues that will define the next cycle
-Help the Democratic Party find and support better candidates early in the process
-Do anything you can to encourage voter turnout, especially for young voters and especially during primary season
Now, we want to hear from you! Tell us your ideas, make suggestions about how to get involved, etc. Collaboration is fun! And seriously, we don’t want to have to write another version of this piece in 2 years.
Leave us a comment, drop us an email, tweet us, harass us on Facebook, and get involved!