Getting Started in Political Activism

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If you want to get involved with the political process, here are some resources to get you started. Although there are a lot of ways to be an activist, at the start, I encourage you to 1) be in contact with your elected officials regarding issues that are important to you, and 2) get involved in elections.

Contacting Your Elected Representatives

You need to be able to contact your Members of Congress (2 U.S. Senators, 1 U.S. Representative). Type in your zip code at Contacting Congress to get the names and contact information of your three reps. Be sure to add that information into your phone contacts.

Type in your address at Open States to get the contact information for your state-level representatives.

Calling your representatives is very efficient and powerful, particularly for issues needing an immediate response or for mass action. Read this article by a former congressional staffer who explains why calls work so well.

For any issue that isn’t time sensitive, writing to your representative is similarly effective, particularly when you personalize the issue.  Don’t cut and paste language from a Call to Action site. Make it your own. There are always new tools to help you email your reps, but you can reliably find their contact info on their congressional websites. 

You can interact with your elected representatives when they hold townhalls with their constituents. Find out when your representative will have their next event at the Townhall Project.

There are a number of people who dedicate themselves to learning about all of the issues of the day, researching how we can best pressure our elected officials to vote the way we want them to on pending legislation, and devising Calls to Action (CTA). For a huge collection of Calls to Action sites, you can go to Action Alliance. Subscribing to a couple of them will keep you current.  Here are a few of my favorites:

   Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience 

   Rogan’s List

   5 Calls

   Wall of Us

Getting Involved in Elections

To have the greatest impact on elections, get involved locally. Why? Think about who can vote for your city’s mayor or U.S. Senator. Those are the voters that you uniquely can have an effect on, as they’ll be more influenced by a local such as yourself than someone outside their community. Here are some ideas of where you can plug in locally:

Find your local League of Women Voters. Get to know them by attending a meeting or two.

Find your local/county Democratic party organization. Each state party website will have links to the local parties. Volunteer at their headquarters, and attend a meeting or training they offer.

There are likely to be other political organizations in your community (such as Indivisible, etc.) that are working on election activities. Find the group you like working with the best. Ask around.

Get involved with local voter registration drives. In addition to the organizations already listed, check with large community organizations that organize around issues (think ACLU). Many of them organize registration events.

Join a campaign. Whether you’re working to re-elect your current representative or helping a candidate flip a seat, your candidate will have a website. There you’ll find their contact information and a sign up to volunteer. If they have a local campaign office set up near you, walk in and offer to volunteer. (They always need more volunteers.)

In addition to being involved locally, if you are interested in helping a “swing district” outside of your own community, get involved either with Flippable or Swing Left.

And, of course, vote! Vote in every election — not just the general, but in the primaries, and any special elections or ballot measures that come up between the big general elections. Every vote counts!

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