5 Ways To Be An Effective Political Activist

If one good thing has come out of the US presidential election (and the repercussions thereafter), it's that much of the American population has become more interested in how our government actually works. Now, I'm not an expert, but the past few months have been eye-opening in terms of learning about what the President can and can't do as well as what us citizens have the right to do in opposition.

And that's what I want to talk about today- what your regular ol' American citizen can do to effect change. And for this, I owe it to my mother who has been incredibly inspiring in taking action and doing everything in her power to exert her power as a citizen. In fact, this post is for me more than anything- to encourage myself to be a better advocate for change than I am now. Remember: we all can be doing more.

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that the result of the election left me feeling disappointed, frustrated, and angry. The months afterward? Well, they weren't so great either. In fact, they've probably been worse because it's real now. But the thing is, we can't just complain talk about it.

The recent Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Louis C.K. comes to mind (watch it if you need a good belly laugh). Let's face it: we feel good about ourselves when we "speak out" by Tweeting, Facebooking, and Instagramming about social problems (I know I do). We may even think we're single handedly saving the world. But not every political move you make has to be shout-it-from-the-rooftops, instagram-worthy material. Trust me: posting that picture of you holding a sign at a protest won't make the world better (going to the protest will, but there are other ways too!).

So taking some sage advice from my now very politically-involved mother, I'm here to tell you about 5 tangible ways that you can be an effective political activist right now. You don't have to run for office, or campaign, or do anything "huge." But you will make a difference.

1. Write something meaningful 

Okay, I know I just said that Tweeting and Facebooking won't make the world better. But hear me out: writing can change minds. That being said, it's important to look beyond your own small social circle when it comes to voicing your political opinions. If everyone on your friends list is politically like-minded (and I know most of mine are), then are you really changing anyone's mind by posting something? Probably not. So what should you do then? Well if you consider yourself a good writer, go get it published somewhere credible. I'm not talking about The Odyssey (sorry). Aim for local newspapers, magazines, or even your student newspaper! People are more keen to hear the opinions of millennials than you might think.

2. Join a local (or national) activism group 

My mom is a member of the Indivisible Newton chapter. I've been dying to go to one of their meetings, but unfortunately my Spring Break didn't line up with any. Indivisible, which functions on a national level but through local community groups, is a great starting point for taking action against the current political state of our country. With endless resources for standing up for what you believe in, Indivisible is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of political activism. They even have "call scripts" for contacting your local representatives so even if you get anxious picking up the phone (particularly for a politician's line), they have you covered.

3. Register for ResistBot

I just signed up for this service last night, saw my mom compose a text, but haven't bit the bullet myself quite yet. ResistBot is a text-message service which helps you to directly fax your representatives on the issues that matter to you. Here's how it works: sign up for ResistBot, and you'll immediately receive a text from them. Punch in your zipcode and they'll keep your representatives on file. Then, send a text over stating what you stand for or against (keep it short and sweet). They'll format it into a letter for you with all your details and fax it over to your senators almost immediately! And who said contacting your senators was hard?

4. Learn how to take small actions every day 

Jen Hofmann writes newsletters every week that provides a checklist for concerned citizens (of all political parties) to follow. Whether it's self-care, something to read and share, something to say to your senators, or encouraging you to thank your senators, Jen has something new every week for you to do. It's not only the big things that matter, but the small actions, the self-awareness, and the acts of positivity that can effect the greatest change.

5. Call the Whitehouse. Call your Representatives. Go to a Town Hall Meeting. 

This falls under the category of "bigger actions" but it's so important. Picking up the phone may be one of the hardest things to do on this list, but it's the easiest (and fastest) way of making sure that your message gets to the government as quickly and efficiently as possible. Remember, your local politicians work for you their constituents. The more you bug them about changing something or voting a certain way, the more likely they'll do it (they really do tally up the calls). Know what your representatives stand for. Participate in their talks. Whether or not you think that your state aligns with your views, politics is much more complicated than that! Speak up and show up. It'll make all the difference.

While it may have taken a near disaster to get Americans on board with political activism, I'm glad that there are so many people willing to take practical steps toward a better (and more citizens-focused) government. I'm the first to admit, I'm not nearly as politically active now as I would like to be. But I hope that this list, and the discovery of others, will keep me on track to becoming a more involved citizen.

Do you know of any other ways to be an effective political activist? I'm always looking for new suggestions! 

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