Three categories of political involvement

Editor’s note: Gene Wiseman is a student at Wayland Baptist University in Anchorage. This essay was written for an assignment in his American Government class and submitted upon suggestion of the instructor, former OPAG executive director Ray Clements.

No matter your age every citizen has a personal and civic responsibility to become involved in the political process. Citizens age 65 and older lead the nation in turning out to vote, followed closely by the 46 to 64 year old age group. However when it comes to volunteering time, the tables turn and the millennials and Gen-Xers lead the nation. Across the board as a nation we can do better.

Pondering this I asked myself questions: “What are the ways in which you can become involved in the political process? Which one interests me the most and why?”

To answer these questions I am going to draw on my personal experiences, observations and opinions. Simply stated, there are three main categories of involvement that every American should follow: education, action and communication.

First let us explore education. Each citizen has a responsibility to learn about the issues that face their local community, state and country. One should research the candidates who are seeking election prior to casting a vote. It is important to know the candidates’ stance on the issues. This can be determined through visiting the individual’s website, checkout their voting record (if already in office), or by contacting the candidate’s office and asking for information directly. The important thing is to vet the information for yourself and draw your own opinion. Many times we can be led astray by another’s biases.

But wait a minute. What good is it to know where a candidate or elected official stands on an issue if you don’t know where you stand? If you are uneducated on the issues and do not take the necessary steps to become educated, then why bother casting a vote? You might as well bet your full paycheck in Las Vegas.

The author Mira Grant once said, “And to those who would choose the safety of inaction over the danger of taking a stand, I have this to say: you bloody cowards. May you have the world that you deserve.”

This brings us to the next category, action. Action manifests politically in many forms – casting a vote, attending your local Assembly meeting, or gathering petitions to get an initiative you support on the local ballot. Other action-oriented activities include volunteering with a nonprofit, applying for a seat on a local or state board through the office of Boards and Commissions, or be that weird guy who has stood at the corner of Evergreen and the Glenn highway in Palmer, every day for the past six years, holding up a sign to impeach Obama. Whatever it is, one has to get off of their rear and put some energy into the cause that they support.

The last category is communication. Communication is the string that binds political involvement together. Simple conversations from the heart are most impactful. Appealing to a person’s affective domain. Talks at the dinner table with your family, sending a reminder text to your brother that it is voting day, or taking a more active role and annoying society at dinner time by calling homes on a candidate’s behalf. Although most folks would be very happy if nobody did that anymore.

As far as which one interests me the most; I believe that they are interconnected and must each be given their equal measure. However all of what I have described takes energy and initiative and that speaks to what is arguably the strongest of the three areas of involvement described in this essay. Action!

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