On January 25, 2017, we are less than one week into the new administration and already significant bills have passed the House, executive orders have been signed and lives have been changed. We’ve encountered #FakeNews and we’ve been introduced to #AlternativeFacts. We witnessed the outcry of millions of women (and men) around the globe, who took part in a historic, unprecedented march. This is the most polarized my generation has ever seen America.
This is not a political post. I am not a political commentator or expert. I am not here to discuss everything happening on Capitol Hill because frankly, there’s too much to cover in this post. For a brief overview of some of what has transpired as of January 24, read this.
The election is over. The inauguration is over. The new administration’s agenda is actively being implemented.
What now? Here are some strategies to actively engage in our democracy.
- Stay informed. It may be overwhelming to take in everything going on, but please don’t disengage. America is going through a huge transition and our lives and the lives of future generations will be directly impacted by decisions being made right now. An easy way to start getting more informed is through listening to political podcasts — NPR and The New York Times’ “The Run Up” are just a couple of nonpartisan options. For objective news sources, try PBS, BBC, C-SPAN and Reuters.
- Make calls. With friends. If you hear about laws being passed that you oppose (or support), you can take action. Call your elected officials and tell them your thoughts. Be courteous, be heard. Staffers must keep track of how many calls they receive so there is strength in numbers. If they don’t answer, you can leave voice mails as well! You can find your house representative here and your senator here. A friend recently introduced me to the Countable app, which you can use to read summaries of upcoming and active legislation and contact your elected officials.
- Meet the locals. Those would be your mayor, council member, county executive, etc. Local governments vary in terms of titles so visit your city and county’s “.gov” page to learn more. These individuals are making decisions that have the most direct impact on your day-to-day life. Also, at the state level, governors often have their own websites with press releases, bill signings and other important information.
- Petition. Visit the White House petitions page or change.org to sign an existing petition or create your own.
- Protest, peacefully. Increase the visibility for your cause through gathering and making your voice heard. This can also empower and energize a unified group to strategize and take further action. Peacefully protesting is a constitutional right.
- Campaign. Midterm elections will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. That seems like a long time from now, but campaigns take time to organize so there is plenty of time to prepare. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested. Each party has campaign committees for the House and Senate whose mailing lists you can join for more information. Visit these websites for more information: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, National Republican Senatorial
- Give back. There are endless opportunities to support community organizations through both time and money. Find the organizations doing the work for the causes you believe in and get involved!
- Be discerning. Use your best judgment and fact check before re-posting or sharing politicized issues. Don’t fall victim to false narratives!
- Take care. There is a saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Civic engagement can be exhausting — don’t neglect your personal welfare during the mission.
Do you have other ideas for how we can make progress as a nation? As always, thoughts and comments are welcome!