6 Ways to Get Involved in Politics
Whether you aspire to be an elected official or just want to advocate for a specific cause, there are myriad ways to get involved in politics at both the national level and the local level. If you want to join the process but don't yet know how, here are six strategies for doing so:
- Make a donation. If you want to get involved in politics without even leaving the comfort of your home, you can do so by donating to political campaigns or advocacy groups. During the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama’s campaign was heavily funded by small donations. Many other politicians—both Republican and Democrat—have since enjoyed similar largess from individual donors.
- Volunteer on a political campaign. Volunteering on a campaign can mean making phone calls (known as phone banking), sending text messages, or canvassing door-to-door to advocate for a political candidate. Every election cycle, campaigns rely on “on the ground” volunteers to spread grassroots enthusiasm about their candidate and their cause. In the United States, the most popular form of volunteering tends to be for presidential campaigns, but the presidency is hardly the only office in American politics. First-time volunteers might find their time is more effectively spent advocating for local representatives, whose policies more directly affect their day-to-day lives.
- Join a nonprofit organization. Unlike a politician's campaign, a nonprofit organization tends to organize around advocacy for a specific issue. For instance, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) provides support to politicians who propose policies to reduce incidences of drunk driving in American life. Other nonprofits include the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club. Being part of a nonprofit might mean attending meetings, going to marches and rallies, and even staffing local offices of the organization.
- Join your community’s civic life. You can volunteer on nonpartisan voter registration drives that aren't affiliated with any specific candidate; they simply register voters for local elections. You can also volunteer at a polling place on election day. Other options for local engagement include attending town hall meetings (or city council meetings) and canvassing for the census bureau.
- Make politics your job. If you love the political arena and want to be deeply involved, you might consider making it your career path. If you have strong communication skills, policy expertise, or a background in fundraising, you can get a job as a staffer for someone who holds political office. Or you can start your own business as a political consultant. Some consultants might simultaneously have clients running for president, Congress, and the state legislature. They can be involved in many races simultaneously and make a big impact.
- Run for office yourself. The most ambitious way to throw yourself into the political system is to run for office yourself. Many politicians begin their careers in local government, running for offices on a local school board or city council. Many will look to advance their careers over time, perhaps transitioning to state and eventually federal government. Others will opt to make a career exclusively in local politics.
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