Homeactivist4 Ways to Hold Lawmakers Accountable
The White House in Washington, DC and its manicured grounds.

by Daniel Schwen, via WikiMedia Commons

Last week, a massive portion of the world was devastated to hear of who will be taking the US presidency in 2017. I, like many others who will be directly impacted by the promised policy changes if they go through, was among that number. There was a lot of hopelessness, and many still suffer from that reaction. Once the initial shock passes, there are still ways you can effect change.

VOTE and Encourage Others To
Yes, we’re constantly told to get out and vote, and when you’re standing in a long line, it seems like the majority of the US population does. However, that’s not the case.

This year, nearly HALF of registered voters didn’t take part in the election. Yes, there was voter suppression, but there was also enough discontent that lots of folks didn’t bother going out. Clinton still won the popular election, but Trump won the electoral college. If more people bothered voting, that could have been avoided.

So, if you voted, YES! Good job! Next election season, encourage everyone you know to vote, too. Personally, I’ll be sharing information on disability/civil rights friendly candidates, because this issue is vital to our country, and I’m tired of dancing around the issue.

Local Elections
As important as the presidential election is, local elections are even more vital. Our government is built around a system of checks and balances. Yes, the President is the country’s leader, but the majority of his actions must be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Next year, all three legislative institutions will be dominated by the Republican party, which has historically been bad for civil rights in general. At the moment, we can’t go back and change the votes or make more people go out, but we can start planning for midterm elections.

Two years from now, there will be another round of local elections. Research your choices and vote in those, too. Those folks will determine your state’s laws, as well as how school districts run. They may not get as much attention, but they need your input, too.

Speak Up
Somehow, one of the fundamental natures of holding public office is lost in the general consciousness. Your elected officials serve YOU. It’s not the other way around. YOU have the power when you join with all of the others who are speaking out in support of all of our collective rights.

However, in order to exercise those rights, you need to speak up. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Call your representatives’ offices, repeatedly
  • Attend town hall meetings.
  • Write letters to representatives, again, repeatedly
  • Whenever possible, schedule an appointment with your local officials to speak with them face to face
  • Sign or start legitimate petitions, then make sure they’re carried through

I realize that not everyone can do all of these things, but everyone can do at least one or two of them. If you don’t know what to say or write, there are form letters and scripts available from various organizations.

I may eventually write a few for any interested followers, but I am compiling contact information for lawmakers and organizations to check out. Once it’s ready, that information will be posted on a separate page.

Peaceful Protest
Now, I know the word “protest” evokes masses of people blocking traffic and perhaps getting arrested. While I support those who protest in that manner, the fact is, not everyone can do that for various reasons.

Parents must care for their children, especially if those kids need specialized attention. Folks who have mobility issues may not be able to physically make it to protest sites. People with environmentally triggered illnesses, like my asthma, may not be able to attend due to poor conditions.

The concept of protest is for a group of people to get a message of dissent across en masse. Here in the United States, protests have been held against oppression against women and minorities, against alcohol, against war, and many other issues. These actions have happened world-wide for assorted reasons. The idea is to force lawmakers to take notice of how their constituents feel, and to draw attention to the issue from the nation as a whole.

That said, there are more ways to protest than taking to the streets. Here are a few suggestions:

  • boycott businesses supporting oppressive lawmakers and policies – in this case, make sure the business knows exactly why you’re boycotting them
  • online campaigns – twitter hashtags in particular have had great success in drawing attention to important civil rights issues
  • move your money from financial institutions with ties to the ringleaders of discriminatory policy
  • consistently wear symbols of support for marginalized groups

There are many other forms of protest people of all ability levels can take part in. The point is to become active and share movements you support.

These four methods are all good places to start in taking part in our country’s legal process. The next coming years can be disastrous for our country, and the world as a whole. If you care at all about civil rights or our environment, do whatever you can to create change within this system.

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