How to Be Politically Active

How to Be Politically Active

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, my guess is if you took the initiative to spend a semester in Washington D.C. you're at least somewhat interested in politics and the political process. D.C. is the heart of politics in the United States, and many political science majors across the country dream of moving here after graduation to get in on the action.

 

Living in D.C. provides you with amazing access to a wide spectrum of political activity, from its own local politics, to the dynamics of the House and the Senate, to the White House, and to a variety of activist groups. But if you're not a complete politics junkie (or even if you are), it can be a little tough to navigate all these different areas and figure out how to be a politically engaged citizen. Hopefully I can use my experience and knowledge to give you all some ideas for how to get started!

 

1. Educate Yourself on the Issues

The best place to start is to become more educated and informed about what's happening in the realm of United States politics. Given the wealth of information available on the Internet, there are a number of different ways you can go about doing this.

 

First, make sure that no matter where you align politically, you are using reliable sources to research and learn about an issue. To help, here's a quick article on how to tell if a news article is fake.

 

If you need some places to get you started, the website ISideWith breaks down the most popular social issues of 2017. You could also take the ISideWith quiz if you're unsure of where you fall on the political spectrum. Another website I like is theSkimm and here they have guides to current events and issues seen in the news. theSkimm also has a daily newsletter you can sign up for via email. The New York Times Morning Briefing is another great daily email so every morning you can get a quick look at what's going on in the world.

 

Podcasts are also an excellent way to get news, information, and the breakdown of issues around the world! There are too many out there to list (and on all points of the political spectrum), so do your own research to find the best podcasts for you. However, I will say some of my favorites are: Pod Save America, Pod Save the World, NPR Politics Podcast, Up First, The Daily, and Freakonomics Radio.

 

2. Find Out Who Your Elected Representatives Are and Contact Them

The importance of this one should be self-explanatory. You can't get truly involved in politics until you find out who your politician actually is! This is the person making decisions on your behalf, so you need to know who they are and how to contact them.

 

First, if you don't already know, you should find out if you're registered to vote! Next, you can view the full list of your elected officials at the federal and state level. When it comes to actually contacting them, USA.gov provided this helpful how-to guide for citizens to follow. There's also this fantastic Twitter thread from a former Congressional staffer that breaks down the most effective methods to get them to listen (spoiler alert: it isn't Tweeting or writing Facebook comments, it's actually making phone calls).

 

3. Support a Political Party or Candidate

Another great way to get involved is directly with your political party or a candidate! You can volunteer on a campaign by making phone calls, stuffing letters, or going out to canvass a neighborhood. With the upcoming 2018 election, there are going to be plenty of campaigns you can get involved with locally or in D.C.

 

If you're more interested in supporting a political party, here's information on ways to get involved with the Republican Party and with the Democrat Party. And if you're not interested in either of those options, but still want to support voting and elections, you could volunteer to work at a polling place or volunteer to register voters! Another great way to support this would be to hold a voter registration drive on your campus.

 

4. Participate in Protests or Rallies

Joining in on a protest or rally can be an exciting way to show your support for a cause or movement, and to connect with others who support the same issue as you. There are always protests happening in D.C., and I highly suggest you take the time to find and participate in at least one!

 

The other weekend, I participated in the March for Racial Justice, and it felt very empowering to be apart of such a passionate group of people who shared the same values as me. Use Eventful to find something you might be interested. Remember that the right to peacefully assemble is your right as a U.S. citizen, however, you do need to be careful and aware of your rights when you're out protesting. The ACLU has a handy guide on knowing your rights and what to do if you feel your rights are being violated while you're demonstrating.

 

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

 

Now, take these tips and go get involved in politics! And tell me, what social and political issues are most important to you?

 

Kelsey

 

Read Kelsey's previous blog posts

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