The first 5 steps to becoming politically engaged
Getting politically involved for the first time can seem daunting. Many people find that they do not know an easy way to become politically active, and some convince themselves they can’t make an impact. But you can, and here are the simplest first steps to get started.
1. Figure out who your representatives are — you’ll have two senators and one house rep, in addition to your state and local reps. If you know who they are already, congrats, I’m impressed.
2. Follow your representatives on social media. In order to become more politically active, you are going to want to make your local politics part of your daily routine. And your representatives showing up in your feeds telling you what they care about will do just that.
3. Call your representatives. This step, sadly, is not as easy as the previous two. The honest truth is that a cold call is more anxiety-inducing than we’d like to admit. Can’t I just tweet at them, you might ask. Sadly no, social media posts and emails can be easily summarized, ignored, or replied to automatically. A call makes a greater impact because you are actually taking up another person’s time. Representatives are expected to have their staff take calls, and offices notice when a lot of people start calling about the same issue. But perhaps more importantly, it gives you an opportunity to actually tell a personal story to the staffer on the line.
Calls are most effective when you have a specific demand or expectation in mind. Telling them you simply do not like Trump, while it may be true, doesn’t give them anything to work with. In most case you will want to ask your Congressperson to vote for or against a particular bill or make a public statement about an issue.
All these simple steps have already turned into something quite daunting. Not only do you need to know who your representative is, but now you need to know what bills are being voted on and how you want your representative to vote. My friends had this exact paralysis, and that is why I created Mobilize (currently in the App Store). It provides an easy way to look up your representatives and automatically provides you with their phone numbers. Then it gives you personalized call scripts about urgent issues with definitive asks for your representative. Mobilize can also send you push notifications when a urgent call script becomes available.
4. Keep calling and calling. Make it a habit. This has two major benefits: you are making your voice heard, and perhaps more importantly, you are educating yourself. You are learning what your representative votes on, and how they are voting. And the more you know, the more you care. By the time the next election comes along, you can thank your representative by allowing them to keep their job, or show your disappointment by electing someone else.
5. You’ll figure it out. If you’ve followed steps 1–4, all sorts of opportunities to become politically active will become more apparent. Whether it’s taking a trip to your representative’s office, joining a local political group, marching in a rally, or running for office yourself. It all starts by picking up the phone for the first time, and calling your representative.
Originally published at medium.com