One of the biggest blessings of my participation in Wake the Vote is that I have had the opportunity to travel across the country to Iowa, New Hampshire, Washington D.C., and South Carolina to experience the presidential election first-hand.
The reaction of many of my peers when discussing the Wake the Vote program is how it gives the cohort members a unique ability to involve itself in the electoral process. Although this is true – not many can say they’ve worked for people across the aisle in primaries in such “important” states, I feel that there is a general disconnect with political involvement.
You don’t need to travel to get involved in politics: pretty much wherever you are in the U.S., you CAN be involved. This is particularly the case with primaries, as states that are considered staunchly red or blue are often left off the strategic maps for the general election become integral to who is chosen to represent their respective party.
Here’s a quick guide to how to be politically engaged:
The most important thing that any citizen can do is keep up with current events through regularly reading the news. Twitter is a great resource to compile the work of many news sources together, and will really allow for you to quickly get a good grasp of what is important in the news cycle on any given day (especially if you follow Twitter accounts from across the political spectrum). If you keep up with the news, and pay attention to each candidates’ platforms, you will be able to make well informed decisions on who you support for the presidency based on actual policy and capability to perform the necessary duties of the U.S. Presidency. In an election cycle for the US Presidency that can truly only be described as absurd (note: I strongly believe SNL would be better off performing dramatic readings of the GOP and Democratic debates than actually coming up with comedic material), staying up with the facts of election cycle is crucial.
VOTE. Seriously. A lot of people talk about politics, but if you didn’t vote, you can’t complain. Voting is one of the greatest privileges of being a U.S. citizen, so make sure to perform your civic duty! Voting laws are quite confusing at times so make sure to check out the laws for your respective state online before heading out to the polls.
When most people talk about being engaged, they mean working on an actual campaign. Sometimes your state will have a decent on-the-ground campaign for a presidential campaign (the selfie used for this article was taken at Wake Forest when President Clinton came to stump for his wife before the North Carolina primary). Other times, however, this won’t be the case.
Don’t be discouraged though, because the Presidency is the ongoing election least relevant to your personal life! Yes, it is very, very important who is elected. What has the greatest impact on the average U.S. citizen’s life, however, is their state and local elections.
The most recent controversy with the NC legislature, for example, is regarding the HB2 law that strips protections from the LGBTQ community. Regardless of your personal beliefs on this law, this law will have a profound impact on individuals of this community. So, if your hometown doesn’t have a #ChooseCruz or #ReadyForHillary campaign going, don’t fret! Look into the candidates running for your Congressional and state legislature seats.
In short: Get informed and WAKE THE VOTE!!!