The year 2013, fortunately, is not a major election year. Without the electoral campaign apparatuses constantly emailing, texting, calling, and canvassing people to volunteer or vote, it can be a little unclear as to how one can stay politically active.
To help you deal with the electoral politics vacuum, here are five tips to keeping politically active in 2013.
1. Argue With Yourself
With the mounting pressure of the 24-hour news cycle and blogosphere, there is a good amount of pressure to be on the pulse of current events, to be as correct-sounding as possible, and to be almost unwavering in your political views. Don’t succumb to the pressure to try to have a definite stance on every issue, because chances are, if you’re like most people, you don’t have a definite opinion on every issue. Leave that to the politicians running for office. Instead, challenge yourself by looking at as many sides of an issue as possible.
Challenge yourself to read websites, journals, and news media with a political slant that differs from your own. Read them with the mission of genuinely understanding arguments and beliefs that you are not accustomed to, not just to get yourself riled up about who said what, or to amuse yourself on what you believe to be misinformation. The more you challenge your own beliefs, the more effective you will be as an advocate for them.
2. Get Involved With Local Opportunities
Oftentimes, the best opportunities to make political change are in your own neighborhood. These local initiatives can even grow to create national impact. Check out your city of neighborhood council meetings to see which issues are being prioritized by government. If you like what you see, get involved. If you don’t, the smaller nature of local government will make it easier for you to create immediate impact.
There are many more local groups and institutions to get involved with other than government, of course. Local chapters of national organizations or community-specific groups are a great and flexible commitment way to stay politically active. Find a group that interests you, attend a general meeting and set the terms of your engagement. Or, if you’re particularly ambitious, start your own initiative. You can give it a few hours a week or a few a month. How much time you put into it is always up to you.
3. Pick an Issue and Stick With It
Committing to a particular cause, campaign or initiative will increase your effectiveness as a change agent. It’s incredibly easy for decision makers to ride the popularity of an issue, make a few fleeting promises for change and then simply wait for its popularity to wane as people move on to the next hot topic. When you have people working on an issue consistently, organizers will be ready to capitalize on media attention when the time comes. But, without a solid foundation, year-round, the political cause will have nothing to build on when popularity does come. So, the people who are going to have the most impact on a particular issue are the ones who are in it rain or shine, news headline or no news headline.
4. Get Off the Internet
Even though this post is on an internet platform, social media or internet activism only goes so far. Many of us disregard the floods of infographics, tweets, and Facebook-statuses-turned-political-bumper-stickers that we see everyday. En masse and without direction, internet activism can loose its impact. In 2013, be politically active with other people, whether it is a meeting, a rally or a lobby visit at an elected official’s office. Working with people face-to-face helps build stronger relationships, communities and political movements.
5. Petition When it Will Make a Difference. When it Won’t, Challenge Everyone to Find a New Way
In 2013, challenge yourself to think about the efficacy of adding your signature to a list of names in support or against something. If you believe that signing in solidarity is for you, sign on! But, before signing a petition, everyone may benefit by stopping to think through a few questions: “What will the outcome of this be?” “Will the organizer’s goals really be accomplished with a long list of support?” “Is signing a petition a big enough show of support, on my part, to really be effective and prove support to a decision maker?” or “Is the purpose of this petition just to raise awareness in board audience?”
I use petitions as an example because it’s a relatively simple way to think about the efficacy of the political actions you take. Sometimes a petition will sway a senator, sometimes a demonstration can change a vote. But, sometimes they cannot. In cases where certain actions don’t meet the challenges you face in making change, do not give up or disregard people for taking these steps. Instead, BE CONSTRUCTIVE and suggest other ways to accomplish goals for your cause.