FRIENDS I MET AT THE PROTEST
Politics can be emotionally difficult. Seeing the consequences of policies and rhetoric on vulnerable people is disheartening. In a more intimate sense, it can also be demoralizing to realize the people you considered your friends don’t have the same empathy for people who are affected. It can make you feel crazy to feel like you’re the only person you know who cares.
More fundamentally, politics raises questions of whether friendships based on different values are sustainable or even worthwhile. I don’t think these are easy questions to answer in a think piece, and it’s hard not to feel discouraged when asking these questions.
I’ve found that getting involved politically has been a really valuable way of keeping myself from feeling isolated or crazy, in addition to finding more joy and support in other areas of life, what’s happening in politics is horrifying and it’s reassuring to connect with people who recognize this. Below are some great ways I’ve found to get involved and make connections.
Go to Demonstrations.
For reasons like disability, agoraphobia or professional risk, demonstrations aren’t necessarily for everyone, but getting outside with a group to express criticism or support can still be rewarding both politically and personally. In a similar vein, attending rallies for candidates you’re excited or even just curious about can be a positive way to spend time.
Phone Banking and Knocking on Doors.
Your local party headquarters can usually use some help and will provide any training necessary for volunteers. Phone banking is an important activity that allows organizers to touch base with local voters to remind them about upcoming elections and answer any questions they might have. I’ve done this myself, and using the phones and conversation starters supplied, phone banking can surprisingly low stress and even fun. They might also ask for volunteers to go canvassing, which is when knocking on doors and having face-to-face conversations with people.
Host Watch Nights.
This is something I’ve found I really enjoy. You can host and attend watch nights for debates, town halls and of course for elections. Watching poll numbers come in can be intense and being able to commiserate/celebrate with other people makes things way more enjoyable. Watching debates with other people can also help you stay better informed.
Work for a Campaign!
Whether you’re an accountant, a lawyer, a marketing assistant, or fresh out of college, there’s use for a variety of backgrounds and experiences on a campaign. You can learn about openings through listservs (ask around), Twitter, or by going to a candidate’s website.
Volunteer or work for a political organization.
If you prefer to work for a cause rather than a candidate, there’s a multitude of options. Many of these groups work to keep people informed about issues or learn how to become more involved.
Indivisible has gained a lot of attention for helping people learn how to more effectively communicate with their representatives.
Founded by Ellen R. Malcolm in 1985, EMILY’s List is dedicated to fundraising for pro-choice democratic women and also does candidate training for women who run all the way down to the local level.
More decisions happen at the state city, town, and county level than you think. Run for Something aims to get people to run for offices down-ballot. If you express interest, you’re vetted and connected with other candidates as well as resources.
Arena Summit both trains candidates and campaign staff and supplies toolkits to guide candidates in fundraising, articulating policies, and organizing campaign leadership.
The Giffords Law Center was founded by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she survived being shot in the head in 2011. The organization works to create multifaceted policies addressing background checks, gun sales, and the availability of assault weapons.
Women are a slight majority of the world’s population but are still undervalued as a population and underrepresented politically. Founded by six incredibly accomplished women, Supermajority seeks to rectify that.
Millennial Action Project is an organization that fosters inter-party discussion of issues like ranked choice voting, financing higher education, and the sustainability of the gig economy.
Run for Something
Yeah, seriously. Run for something. Local politics really does have an influence and you may be more qualified than you think to run for an office. A number of organizations help prepare potential candidates to run (see the list above) and you can also find support by speaking with people at your local party office.
Volunteer with local community organizations.
I’ve found that gathering for a common purpose can help restore your faith in the good will of people. Volunteering at soup kitchens, food banks, and charity stores are great ways to build relationships based on shared empathy, which I think is something that’s crucial in maintaining friendships.
In summary, I’ve baked pies, made phone calls and knocked on doors while getting involved with local politics. I’ve even met wonderful people at monthly breakfasts and lunches organized by party headquarters. It’s not to say connections happen instantly, but they do get made very fast when you’re doing work that’s important to you and the value of that has been incredible for me. Hopefully it’s similarly valuable for you.