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Midterm Musings

Midterm election season is well underway with federal, state and local offices up for election across the United States. Historically, these elections have had lower turnout than our presidential elections – by margins as high as 20%. This comes from a general feeling that the midterm elections are somehow less important than our presidential elections when in reality, they are just as critical and transformational.

The midterm elections are influential for a number of reasons:

  1. They are a key piece of our country’s system of “checks and balances” that helps to limit a monopoly of power by any one branch of government
  2. The people we elect to these positions are representatives whose decisions will directly affect our local communities as well as national legislature
  3. These elections create a bridge between our presidential elections that helps us navigate change and transition

This year we have seen a record number of people registering to vote, and early voting statistics suggest that we could see voter turnout rates that we haven’t experienced in almost 50 years. This is significant because it creates unpredictability and opportunity. There’s a lot of energy and emotion around this election, but regardless of how you choose to participate, there are a few things we all need to remember this week leading up to November 6th:

Take the time to learn. It’s impossible to know everything when it comes to politics. But, we can make an effort to stay current and to ask good questions. Each election, I make sure to dedicate time to researching each candidate and proposition from reliable sources so that I can make educated decisions come election day. I also make sure to consult with other people for their opinions and try to hear from people who might have very different views than me. Taking notes in my voter’s guide helps me to remember all of this new information so that I can refer back to it when filling out my ballot. 

Talk about it – This is harder than it sounds. Politics are naturally charged with emotion and it can be challenging to have civil and productive conversations about the issues that are at stake. Regardless of our beliefs and opinions, it’s important to engage in respectful and earnest dialogue, especially when we may disagree. My personal preference is to encourage you to avoid these kinds of conversations over social media if at all possible and to instead have courage and conviction to discuss these things in person. There are certain considerations and skills needed in order to craft a compelling argument, like the art of listening or persuasion, that are lost in a keyboard.

Think critically. Political issues are complex and challenge our abilities to think critically and problem solve. Even for issues that are seemingly dichotomous, there is rarely one right or wrong answer. When we can challenge our own assumptions, opinions, and beliefs for the sake of greater understanding, then we can begin to work towards equally complex solutions. 

Exercise your rights responsibly – Our rights like those to vote, to peacefully assemble, and to free speech come with great responsibility. As citizens, we have the ability to influence so many spheres of government with these powers. However you feel called to be politically active, be aware of the impact of your words and actions on yourself and others. Choose to be helpful and not harmful!

Be an advocate for yourself and the people you care about. Voting gives you a formal platform to take a stand and have a voice on the things that are important to you. It may feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but our political system literally couldn’t function without the participation of its citizens. We are perhaps the most crucial element to our modern democracy.

Get involved –  If you are interested in politics but aren’t sure exactly how to get involved there are a lot of places you can get started! You can attend Town Hall or City Council meetings to learn more about local legislation, join a canvassing group for a campaign, volunteer to count ballots or register voters, or donate to organizations that support issues you care about.

Remember the big picture. Let’s not reduce our political system to something as simple as a competition. Even though there are technically “winners” and “losers” in our elections, they aren’t sporting events. There are serious issues at stake and the process and results should be given the proper reverence and due diligence. Let’s be careful of the way that we celebrate our victories and recover from our losses.  

It may be even more important to remember these things after the votes have been counted. However the chips may fall, we can, and should, still demonstrate respect, resilience, and responsibility.

*Leadership Lesson*

This week engage with our political system in a way that feels comfortable to you. For some of you, that will mean going out and voting on November 6th. For others, that will mean reading an article on a current issue. Whatever you choose, remember the tips we discussed in this post to make the most of it!

*Meet the Author*

Caelan Cooney is another Millennial who wants ‘to make an impact’, a self-proclaimed movie critic, avid explorer, lifelong learner, and Chapman University graduate.