Stay engaged in politics by listening to the other side

Charlotte Malling

Election season has ended, and the freshman Congresspeople have been sworn in. Whether you voted for them or not, they’re laying out plans for the issues on which they’ve been campaigning.

The sense of political urgency this past season set historical records, with 49 percent of eligible voters turning out for midterms, according to a November 2018 NPR article.

The incoming congressional class is the most diverse in sex, race and religion to date, with the first female Muslim Americans and Native Americans, as well as the record number of 40 incoming women and 20 people of color.

However, we must face the reality that U.S. politics remain deeply polarized. Call me a moderate, but I believe the key to addressing this toxic divide is to start listening to those we disagree with to understand, not to respond.

As your social media turns to regularly scheduled programming, I urge you to stay tuned into what those holding office are up to, newly elected and incumbents alike.

Inform yourself of current issues being debated across the political spectrum by listening to a wide range of voices offering different perspectives.

Read a conservative paper, listen to a liberal podcast or watch that non-partisan documentary. This will enable people to step outside of their ideological bubbles and take on a more critical worldview.   

Most take the first step of advocacy in the form of sharing political posts on social media and attending local rallies.

The next is taking the time to educate yourself on issues and finding meaningful ways to address them in your own life, such as volunteering toward local causes or calling your representatives with concerns.

Political engagement is also civic education, as we must focus on helping people understand how our government functions and what role they can play in it. This is especially important with marginalized populations, as equal resources toward education and activism give rise to a much-needed platform for their voices to be heard.

So stay engaged by staying informed. Your role as a private citizen in our nation’s political system doesn’t end with you bubbling in a ballot, rather, it’s only the beginning.