Power to the people: moving forward
January 20, 2017
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As the sun set on election day, we raced against the creeping darkness, running from house to house, increasingly desperate for responses to our incessant knocking. At 5:40 p.m., my canvassing squad drove a woman to her polling location. Voting in Virginia ended at 7, but she thought that she’d already missed her opportunity.
Hours later, the world discovered that Donald J. Trump had been elected the 45th president of the United States.
In the aftermath of one of the most controversial and divisive elections in this nation’s history, Americans are more divided than ever and many are unsatisfied with the results. For those who say that being unable to vote prevented them from impacting the election, as well as politics and policy, they should simply pay more attention in NSL class. Democracy provides us with frequent opportunities to make our voices heard, so harness that power and take action.
There are an incredible number of ways to get involved in politics and make social change, from volunteering or interning for a campaign or interest group to working at the polls on election day.
Disenfranchisement does not render those under 18 inherently useless.
As a 17 year-old, I volunteered for over 100 hours for the Hillary Clinton campaign, knocking on doors in Virginia and calling voters all over the nation. Even one phone call can impact the election, providing data to the campaign and encouraging the person to vote.
Now, as a new Congress is sworn in, citizens of all ages should take the opportunity to call their newly elected officials and advocate for policy and action on the issues they care about. Making calls is essential to political participation, and just as every citizen has the right to contact their elected officials and share their opinions, those officials must answer, according to the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Furthermore, anyone can create a petition on the White House website, and if it receives 100,000 signatures within 30 days, there will be a guaranteed “official update” from the White House in response within 60 days. MoveOn.org provides a progressive organizing platform and conservatives can make their voices heard and create petitions on StandUnited.org.
Even one phone call can impact the election, providing data to the campaign and encouraging the person to vote.
Although there will not be another presidential election until 2020, there are important elections as soon as next year. Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe’s term will be up, as well as a new New Jersey governor to be elected following Republican Chris Christie’s two terms in 2017.
This year, 43 percent of eligible voters did not act upon their fundamental right and responsibility as American citizens—their right to vote. In 2018, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 33 Senate seats and 36 governorships, including Maryland, will be up for elections. Most current juniors and seniors will have the right to vote by then and should register and vote in the midterms—it matters.
In the meantime, citizens can stand up and fight for the issues and values that matter by taking action. For those who care about environmental protection, volunteer for Greenpeace. Passionate about women’s reproductive rights? Join the thousands who’ve donated to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 8. Support the LGBTQ+ community by becoming a youth member of the Human Rights Campaign. Whether it’s the ACLU, Black Lives Matter or any other issue advocacy groups, there are countless ways to get involved and create change. Regardless of political opinions, everyone is responsible to act as engaged citizens and pursue policy and change according to their beliefs.
Those disappointed with the results of the 2016 election should not give up hope. If you are unhappy, don’t agonize, organize. In the wise words of President Obama: “If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Stay at it.”
Call Senator Ben Cardin: 202-224-4524
Call Senator Chris Van Hollen; 202-224-4654
Call Congressman Jamie Raskin:202-225-5341
Email Governor Larry Hogan: http://governor.maryland.gov/mail/default.asp
Create a White House petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/
Register to vote: https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote