If someone asked me a few years ago, if I was into politics, I would have laughed.
I’ve always been on the liberal-progressive spectrum, but I was never that active or even curious about state or local government. I just figured everyone has an opinion, everyone thinks they know what’s best for everyone else. It’s just a headache. Who cares about my two cents? I just have to worry about my kids, and worry about getting dinner on the table. Who has the time to follow the news, or make civic meetings, let alone pick up the phone and call a representative about pending legislation? Not me. In the rare case where I actually had a minute to myself, I wasn’t going to spend it looking up who voted what on HR2802. I was spending that sweet, fleeting minute with a glass of wine and Real Housewives of New Jersey.
That was stupid of me.
I’m not saying I don’t watch that show or have my wine anymore…but now I do it while also trying to keep informed and get involved a little more.
I don’t care if you’re a democrat or a republican. This post isn’t meant to alienate anyone based on political views. But rather, a guide of resources to help you be more present in your own democracy. How to become more involved in changing the game for people who don’t have the luxury of drinking wine and watching RHONJ. And finally, helping those same people access RHONJ. It’s a damn fine show.
One thing millennials have over their protesting predecessors is technology. Imagine how much further Elizabeth Cady Stanton could have gotten if she had had an iPhone with social media?! Well, if she was the only one, they probably would have burned her for being a witch. But you know what I’m saying. It’s kind of a shame that millennials barely voted this past cycle. But look guys, there are apps! You millennials love your apps! Here’s a list of some great political info apps to help you get organized.
So if you’re looking for an app that will connect you instantly to the congressmen and women for your district regarding any issues you’re interested in, this is a good one.
How it works:
Swipe down to allow the app to find your location. Then instantly it pulls up your federal, state and local officials. Worked like a charm for me, except in the local section, none were appointed. “Local officials are not available in this area yet,” it says which is slightly disappointing. So there are a few problems with accuracy and scope. But overall, an easy, quick app to get you the reps you need in a timely fashion.
What’s even cooler is that the app allows you to receive actions from advocacy groups you have joined. So lets say there’s a bill that your group strongly opposes – the leader of your group can post an alert and you can all call your reps. A nice streamlined way to communicate.
Alder is interesting because it sticks to one main political issue per day, and allows users to tweet their congressmen (which doesn’t seem like the most effective way to go, but the POTUS sure does love it). It also lets you set an alarm to remind you to look at the app, which for someone like me would come in handy. Especially when I’m drinking and watching my programs.
How it works:
I couldn’t tell you my own experience because I’m cheap and this one cost money so I didn’t use it.
$1.99 (yes, I’m THAT cheap)
Out of all the political action apps I took a look at, this one got me pretty excited. That is, until I realized it was user driven information about local rallies and well, it just doesn’t have that many users yet to cover a lot of ground. Basically, if you live in a pretty populated area, you may get a list of rallies that pops up. But for me, nothing was listed – even though I knew of a specific rally happening in my area the very same day I downloaded and tested out the app. I could be someone in my area to enter all the data, but this is why I downloaded the app in the first place – to save me work. So, while flawed in its nature, I appreciate the concept.
How it works:
Users enter info about the various rallies going on in their areas. You can also read news and browse issues related to the things you are interested in, inside the app itself.
These are the websites where you can get information about who your representatives are, and what districts you are a member of.
USA.gov – Official site of the federal government
Senate.gov – Offical site of the Senate
House.gov – Official site of the House
New York State Assembly – The official website for New York State Assembly, which is mine. To find your state, you can type “assembly.state.YOUR STATE ABBREVIATION.us
5calls.org – This website is cool because it gives you the script you need for whatever issue you want to call your representatives about. And the number. It makes it so easy.
Opensecrets.org – I like this site a LOT because you can look up who donated to whatever candidate you are interested in. And how they voted.
Organizing your civic responsibilities the old fashioned way…
I did a post a while back about different types of planners you could find on the market, and how they compare to one another. I write all my upcoming rallies and events with a pen in my very non-tech, ring-bound planner. Obviously I’m using like, three right now. I’m just a paper and pen type of person. Specifically, I’m using my Erin Condren Life Planner a lot. It’s huge so it stays on my desk mostly, but these days I’m trying to cram a lot into a typical day so the space is needed.
If you are the type of person who is planning on protesting, or the type of person who is planning on protesting the protesters, I got you covered.
I don’t mean to boss you around, but you’re going to need a lot of oak tag. Buy in bulk. Protest signs get wet, they get ripped, they get spit on. You will realize you’ve spelled something important incorrectly. And nobody gets made fun of worse than a protester with a misspelling. You’re going to want back up. Note – a lot of local police warn against the use of sticks to carry these signs as they could be dangerous so go stickless when making your sign to avoid conflicts.
These things are THE BEST. 10 hours of heat for standing outside – be it for protesting, waiting on line to meet a congressman, or shoveling snow so you can get to your civic association meeting. Also work great for bus stops.
Know your stuff
If there’s one thing you absolutely MUST do to before getting really involved, it’s knowing how the government works in the first place. Trust me, this is an on-going, uphill battle for me, personally. I am the worst person when it comes to remembering dates or statistics or even where entire countries are located! Can I tell you who heads the House Judiciary Committee right now, without looking it up? Nope. Could I tell you who the season 8 Bachelorette was without looking it up? Emily Maynard.
I’m a complete idiot. But being aware of how much of a dumb-ass you are is half the battle. (But seriously, if you thought Game of Thrones was brutal, you NEED to watch ABC’s The Bachelorette. It sounds counterintuitive, but just trust me on this.)
I’ve also been known to engage in a Facebook comment war or two, where I spout off some gotchya facts I think I know, only to be had by my opponent who provides the evidence that proves I’m 100% wrong. And that shit is embarrassing. Seriously. Here are some resources that could help.
Yes, all of these books are geared towards people like me, who know very little to nothing about government. I’m sure you know more than I do as you’re reading this post right now. I can pretty much guarantee it.
If you hate reading (and if you are a fan of this blog, you’re probably the kind of person who hates reading and anything else smart people do), you can swing over to radio and podcast territory!
One political show I’ve become a recent fan of is Jim Parsons’ “Jim Parsons is Too Stupid For Politics” on Sirius XM. If ever a show was titled to appeal directly to me, this would be it! It’s funny because I actually hate Big Bang Theory with a passion, but came across this show because it’s on Andy Cohen’s radio network. Cohen, being the force behind – you got it – RHONJ. See a pattern here?
Anyway, Parsons’ show is full of insider interviews that explain how government works, with little focus on partisan politics. Sure, Parsons is a member of the Hollywood elite, but I appreciate anyone trying to help me understand anything. That’s not to say that I actually do walk away with learned knowledge. I’m a tough student. I ask my husband how football works every single time the Super Bowl comes around, once a year, every year. He is very smart and explains things very well – I’m just whatever the opposite of a sponge is when it comes to learning new information. A marble? I’m a marble.
If podcasts are more your thing, I recommend Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. The only thing about this is, it gets pretty involved so I’d only recommend it if you had a lot of time to spend focused on listening to what he says. For me, it’s hard to really enjoy it during the day with my two kids around, but if I’ve got some time to kill and I’m in a quiet space, it’s an entertaining way to learn some things I didn’t know about world history.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get involved! Happy planning! xo