With a new President in the White House, some members of The Vector wanted to write a short guide on how to get more politically involved and become a better citizen. While most of these tips are common sense, I hope they can provide some guidance to you in the Age of Trump.
Be Mindful of How You Inform Yourself
With the rise of “fake news” and “alternative facts” (all euphemisms for propaganda), it is more important than ever that we pay attention to the sources of our information. A simple way to combat propaganda and bias is to rely on multiple legitimate sources of news (including international news and primary sources of information), avoid websites that are unaccountable, and to fact check dubious or misleading claims. After all, the 2016 Election is ridden with scandals over fake news spread on Facebook and the supposed bias of the “mainstream” media.
Get Politically Involved at a State Level
So much of our focus has recently been on the federal government that we seem to have forgotten that state and local laws still impact our daily lives to a great extent. In fact, anyone concerned about Trump’s planned policies would be wise to focus their efforts on electing a state government that will address their concerns for them. Notable examples include Massachusetts passing a law similar to Obamacare in 2006 and California recently setting emission targets above those set by the Paris Treaty and the EPA.
Respect those with Opposing Viewpoints
Part of what makes the United States so great is our ability to hold many different viewpoints and beliefs while coexisting with equal rights and in peace. It becomes important then that we not only tolerate but also respect those that politically disagree with us, provided that their views aren’t extreme. Listening to other people’s views can often provide a unique perspective on an issue or expand your worldview. It’s only when you understand how the other side feels that you can truly complete the picture and comprehend the circumstances of a dividing issue. After all, living in an echo chamber or drowning in confirmation bias will only lead to ignorance and we all know how dangerous that can be.
Learn to Deal with the Unpleasant Reality
Many people are unhappy with the results of elections. Trump won the presidency along with a majority of Congress and state governments. For those who vehemently opposed Trump and everything he stands for might feel just a bit angry and disillusioned, you are allowed to feel anger and disappointment.
Participate in Primary Elections
Anyone upset over their choices for this election cycle should consider participating in party primaries in the future. Many note that New Jersey has closed primaries (meaning that you must be affiliated with a major party in order to vote in them) and participates late into the primary cycle (meaning that most candidates have already dropped out), thus claiming that voting in these elections would be an arbitrary effort. And yet, the 2016 Primary Elections placed an unusual emphasis on voters in late states as candidates Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz vowed to fight against their party’s frontrunners until the end of the cycle. With New Jersey’s Governor’s Primary only a few months away, it may be wise get involved now rather than get disappointed with your options this November.
Keep Your Representatives Accountable
With campaign season over, government officials have begun their new term in office. It is important that local representatives are held accountable for their actions while in office. Pay attention to your representative’s voting record and make sure they align with your view and your community at large. If you have any concerns or question don’t be afraid to have your voice heard. Contacting their office or attending community events are an excellent way to have your concerns taken into account.
Get off the Couch
It’s quite easy to complain about the current state of affairs. Life hasn’t gotten better for the average American, since politicians seems more self-serving than ever. The only way to change this is to take your message to the public. Support groups that you believe are changing the world for the better. Make sure your initiatives are known to the world. Of course this takes time, energy, and conviction, but remember that nothing will change unless you do something about it.
A Citizen’s Responsibilities aren’t Seasonal
Everyone is rallied into a fever in support of their cause during the last election. All the passion associated with the campaign season is short lived. Even the most bitter of partisans tend to turn off the lights and go home. Elections are not the end of the story however, they are merely the beginning. All the issues you were passionate about last fall will not be addressed by government official’s alone. It is up to you as a responsible citizen to keep up with what you are passionate about and act.