Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New political activists:Glad you're here and we need you!

Just a word for my friends new to politics that now consider themselves political activists.

Congratulations!  You have taken on something bigger than yourself that can affect other's lives in both good and bad ways. (We hope for good always, though, right?)

Volunteers are ALWAYS needed in politics. So thank you for stepping up. You will fall in love, give your heart and soul to candidates, issues, and campaigns. It can be very rewarding. It can also be heartbreaking. Prepare for both love and loss. Victories are amazing; losses, devastating. Prepare for both, and prepare for the unexpected, because as great as our targeting and polling abilities are, humans are humans. We do expected and unexpected things. And we make mistakes.

Politicians are people too. They have flaws. If you are looking for perfection, or a savior, you might consider being an always informed voter, but maybe not an activist. If you can realize and accept that the politician's campaign you are pouring your heart and soul in is no more perfect than you, keep fighting.

Campaigns and political Parties need money. It's sad but true. Give of your time, your thoughts and ideas, and money if you can. If you can't help your candidate or Party financially find those who can and consider hosting a fundraiser.  But your time, and thoughts and ideas are priceless. Never think anything less of yourself just because you can't donate money. 

Politics is the art of compromise.   We should fight for our candidates and policies that represent our ideals fiercely. But once the election is done, give yourself time to rejoice or mourn, depending on the outcome, then focus on getting the best policy and outcomes you can, even if that means your candidate must compromise. Just know what your dealbreakers are.

Know that your work doesn't end when the campaign does. Our legislators, at all levels, need help and need constituent support.  Stay informed, and let them hear from you. Emails are good, phone calls are better, in person advocacy is best. Hold their feet, or their opposition's (in case your candidate lost) feet to the fire. They should listen to constituents whether you voted for them or not. You are still a constituent.  

Stay engaged. There are elections at least every two years for people in Congress and state level. But don't ignore smaller local elections. City council, quorum court, and the school board are all breeding grounds for talent to move up the political ladder.  And they usually need campaign help. Those smaller, local elections are a great place to learn about grassroots campaigning and organizing.  And, even though many don't realize it, your local government can affect your life in more ways than your president can. So don't disengage and wait another four years for a presidential election. Learn all you can about grassroots campaigning and issues you care about now. Don't wait.

We need a movement of people, of activists, at the local level prepared to work, donate time, energy, ideas, and money, or who might be willing to step up and run for office. Recruiting dedicated candidates isn't easy. The more informed you are and experience you have with helping others campaign, the better candidate you'll be.

Find issues and causes that move you. They often need help and volunteers and it's a great way to learn about grassroots organizing and mobilizing people. It's also a great way to build up a community service background and network for if you ever decide to run for office. 

I keep up with issues like Migraine Awareness and Advocacy; Fibromyalgia Awareness; Mental Health Advocacy, etc because they affect me directly. I also keep up with Arkansas politics and political figures; education and healthcare issues; issues that affect minority and disadvantaged or disenfranchised populations.  I do that to stay informed and because I am passionate about those issues.

I am a member of groups that support those issues. It's a way to stay engaged and educated about the issues. I suggest you find groups to support too. 

I'm so glad you've discovered political activism. There will be hard days, and days of elation. It's not always pretty, but fighting for things that are important, well, it's an important thing to do!