Political engagement is now both more important and more difficult than ever. The stakes always seem higher in a presidential election year but now — with the pandemic, the protests and everything in between — the stakes feel like they were tied to a rocketship and are currently somewhere orbiting Jupiter. It must be pointed out that 2020, while certainly a uniquely disastrous year for America, is really the result of years of built up ideology. The Trump administration has refused to listen to science for years, so how could we be surprised when they failed miserably in the face of a disaster only scientists could solve? And the all-too-frequent incidents of racism and deadly police brutality are unacceptable, but unfortunately, nothing new. The president has been regularly stoking the fires of racial tension for years, with many Americans simply basking in the glow of the flames. America has certainly been tested this year, but we’ve tried to cheat our way out of it with a page ripped from a 1930s German textbook. It’s no wonder we’ve failed.
If this makes you angry, do something. I know it is easy to be down on political engagement right now. It feels like the government has done nothing but fail our generation and honestly, it’s kind of true. This administration’s response to the pandemic has lost thousands of American lives, the environment is being destroyed without a qualm, and we live in a country where we aren’t granted the basic rights like a livable wage or healthcare. However, we cannot give up. Now it is finally our chance to do something about it. Please keep going to protests, sharing information online and having those tough conversations. But also contact your representatives, find a campaign that you identify with and vote! If we want to improve the system, we must elect people who will listen. That will only happen if we politically engage.
You can easily communicate with your representatives in a healthy and socially distant manner. I can’t count the number of emails I’ve sent to city council members, representatives and senators this summer. Politicians are motivated by the desire to be reelected, so make it clear that you are willing to fight with them if they will champion your causes and that you will fight against them if necessary. And don’t forget about your local representatives. Harris County alone has over 50 non-federal elections this year. These officials have a huge impact on your daily life and they almost always need help on their campaigns. You can easily get involved by phone banking, which can be done from your room, or emailing the campaign to see what they might need. Most importantly, vote. Vote early if you can, vote by mail, do whatever it takes to make sure your vote is counted. Make a solid plan and stick to it. For too long the people in power have relied on the apathy of the masses to continue serving the needs of only a few. We must not let this continue.
I get it. 2020 sucks and it feels like there is nothing we can do. But this year isn’t an accident. The previous generations built a system that actively fostered the disasters we are facing today, from building racial tensions to refusing to invest in our health or safety. That doesn’t mean we should sit back and watch America collapse around us. The voice of the people can be the most powerful tool in a democracy if used correctly. We need to take all of the energy and pain from this summer and use it to reshape our government to work for us.
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