1. Get involved in the Democratic Party
One of the most frustrating things I've heard is how "the Establishment is to blame." But if we take a step back and examine how parties operate, we can see that it is less to do with a disdain for "the Establishment" and more a willful ignorance of how democratic organizations work.
Primaries and Caucuses happen because party members, volunteers, and staff have organized between elections and have met on a regular basis to vote on procedures and rules.
When members, volunteers, and staff have toiled between elections to establish a process that they have all voted and consented to, imagine how it feels when someone who wasn't involved in the process shows up at the tail end and demands that it all be thrown out the window. Imagine how it feels when someone ignores all the work put in and sees it as "the Establishment's" fault.
But, look. This is not to say that the Democratic Party doesn't have its issues. No institution or organization is perfect. But that's why you get involved. How do you expect to change how American politics works if you refuse to get involved in and change a Party?
My point here is to get involved in the process from the get-go. And the thing is, it takes work. It takes showing up to city and county committee meetings and making your voice heard. Isn't that what Democracy is?
2. Get involved at the state and local level.
The GOP have been engaged in a concerted effort over the past few decades to win state and local races. This is a long-term strategy that has translated into victories at the national level. How, you may ask?
It's because local and municipal elections are a pipeline that help political operatives and parties identify ready, willing, and able candidates for higher office. It also allows interest groups, such as the Koch Brothers, to push through, test, and assess the feasibility of ideas such as "School Choice" or to sow resentment toward the Federal Government (local governments are more easily identifiable and more accessible to citizens).
State legislatures are important because they draw and re-draw district lines (gerrymandering), which is often used to make a district more favorable to a certain party and often results, in the aggregate, in more seats in the state legislature.
Young people especially need to tune into state and local politics, as there are prime opportunities to run for office, whether it be anything from school board, city councilor, or state representative.
3. If you can't run for office, help recruit and elect candidates.
Some folks have jobs, families, and other obligations that keep them from running for office themselves. But that doesn't mean that you can't help in some way. With digital technology and organizing, it is easier to get involved with a campaign and help from home. Social media has become a huge tool for campaigns to spread the word, gain name recognition for a candidate, fundraise, and gain the momentum needed to win.
The traditional ways of volunteering are also available: Phone banking. Knocking on doors. Donating. The point? Volunteer.
4. Engage with your elected officials.
Sometimes people get so caught up in getting their point across, that they forget to engage and have a thoughtful and consensus-building conversation with their elected officials.
Politicians get a bad rap . And, yes, some politicians are bad people. But many politicians and elected officials most likely started with the hope of doing good and making change. Once people realize this, then all of a sudden politicians appear human again and approachable.
Reach out. Email. Call. Schedule a time to grab coffee and talk about your concerns.
If they don't respond at first, don't try to take it personally. Keep on trying.
5. Finally, VOTE!
I put voting last because too many consider it to be a civic duty that somehow makes up for their lack of participation in other ways.
Don't get me wrong. VOTING IS IMPORTANT. But it takes more than just voting to win or get someone elected.