Summer is just around the corner and you're itching to check items off that neglected 2018 New Years Resolution list, amirite? With the midterm elections coming up this fall, if you've been wanting to get more active in politics, now's your time to shine. Here are a few ideas on how to get politically involved over summer break (and fortunately, it won't be as hard as your finals).
There are plenty of ways to get active, even if you're never done anything activisit-y before, from the local to the national level. Before diving into the nitty gritty, here's my personal two cents on how to get your gears turning: Start by taking inventory.
Who or what do you want to support? Do you want to support your party in general? A cause, like climate change or gun control? A specific candidate?
How much time can you afford to give? Are you looking to march a couple of Saturday mornings, or put in some hours on social media management every week?
What are your resources? For example, do you have access to a car? Do you have a house that can host events?
What are your skills and abilities? Do you know your way around a camera? Are you an Instagram magician? Life of the party? Good at working with numbers? These are all useful skills that any activist group can put to work. (Hint: Volunteering is also a great opportunity to build new skills that look good on a résumé or LinkedIn profile!)
Inventory, check! Next steps: Know what you know and what you don't know. (You may already have these two on lock, but if not, they're exercises worth doing.)
Educate yourself. Read up on political issues or social issues that interest you. Ask to borrow your roommate's political science textbook or Econ study guide.
Identify a community. Obviously, if you prefer to fly solo, by all means. But usually, reaching out to others already involved in the same issues and arenas will make your life much easier (and a whole lot more fun). Scour the web for Facebook groups, Meetup groups, and political advocacy chapters in your area. Reach out to people you know who are already involved to see what they're involved in, and how they got there.
With that in mind, the possibilities for getting politically involved are endless. Here's a few concrete ways to turn your potential into action.
Look for political groups on campus. Is there a political activism or other cause-based group with a chapter already active at your school? Summer is the best time to do your research and plan ahead so when fall term starts, you've got an idea of what you'd like to sign on for. Not seeing what you want? Don't be afraid to start a chapter or political club of your own. Now's the time to lay the groundwork. Find out what it takes to start an official club on your campus, call in those study buddies you met in your PoliSci courses, connect with professors who have your back and might support your group, and make power moves.
Get at your reps. It's also summer break for Congress — and you can use that to your advantage. During their August recess, many members of Congress (MoC's) go home to their own districts and often attend town halls and visit community centers while there. These are perfect opportunities to make your concerns known as a constituent. Writing letters, calling, and emailing are all great — and do as much of that as you can! — but nothing beats face time. Most MoC's also have local offices that you can visit in person. No guarantees that your rep will be able to meet you, but it's worth calling their local office, and you might get lucky. Here's a great guide on what to do if you want to meet with your rep.
First things first, find out who your Congressional representative and your state Representative is. (Remember: They serve their entire district's population, not just their big-dollar donors; you should have just as much right to access your rep as anyone else. It's their job to listen to your needs and wants and vote in your interest. That's exactly why it's so important to talk to them: If they never hear from you about what matters to you as a young person, they won't know how you want them to vote.)
Call up your MoC's office to find out when the next town hall or other public forum is in your area.
Reach out to general political groups in your area. Whether you're in college or not, there are a ton of political advocacy organizations of every strip with chapters around the country, and probably one near you. You can even find ways to bridge the gap between the college and community at large.
Volunteer for a campaign. Whether it's a local candidate running for city council or a candidate running for a U.S. Senate seat, there are literally thousands of seats open in all levels of government nationwide this year — about 513,000 of them, to be specific. (On that note: A LOT of candidates this year are first-timers from outside the political establish without deep donor pockets. They could probably use the help knocking on doors!)
Organize fundraisers. If there's a cause or candidate you're passionate about, reach out to see how you can help them finance their campaign.
Pro tip: There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Check out political events happening in your area on Eventful to see what's already in the works. These are great places to connect with like-minded folks, get ideas, make friends, and find out how your can offer up your skills to help out.
Finally, I'll give the old starting-a-new-workout-regimen advice: Get an accountability buddy. Getting involved in anything new can be scary, so don't hesitate to rope in a wingman to go with to that first meeting. Ask your inner circle to help you set up an event of your own and bring everyone together over a barbecue or beach day. Anything's easier with a partner (or two or three) in crime.