Do you smell that in the air? No, it’s not the smell of pumpkin spice everything—not even the smell of Mama’s famous dressing topped with canned cranberry sauce. It’s the official beginning of the election season, and it only seems right that indictments, impeachments, and insults are being thrown around.
Politics is a hot-button topic that divides social circles, families, religious denominations, co-workers and friend groups. In today’s increasingly toxic political climate it takes some proper pre-gaming to be prepared for the next 12 months. Misinformation, misconstrued sound bites, malicious personal attacks and mutiny within political ranks are just a few of the waves we’ll ride while deciding our next set of elected officials. So, here is a guide with a few hacks to help you navigate the political season.
Pay Attention, but Keep the Change
It's ok to be invested, but don’t get inundated. claims the next election cycle will cost more than $10 billion. With that large of a price tag, you can be sure the ads, campaign information, donation requests, and political promises will be on every media outlet in America. We should do our due diligence on the people seeking to represent us; it’s important to know where the candidates are coming from, what they stand for, and why they want the office, among other things. It's our civic duty to be informed before we cast our ballots, but create appropriate boundaries and limits on consumption. Yes, there is a 24-hour news cycle, but you do not have to stay plugged in to do a sufficient job of candidate research.
Fight Fake News
The partisan divide in politics is adding fuel to the “make it up as we go” movement. Once upon a time, credibility was something that had to be earned and was protected, but information today is more closely related to what is attractive than what is accurate. Fake news is easy to create, and it’s more abundant and accessible than accurate information. The best way to fight it is to get it from reputable sources. Be wary of eye- and ear-catching headlines, and check your source’s source, no matter how trusted. In a world of “shares” (or are they still “retweets”), information flows at the speed of a thumb, and all the information shared isn’t accurate.
Bottom Up vs. Top Down
Try the bottom-up approach vs. the top-down approach when it comes to candidates. One of the most powerful and prudent things you can do in an election is select candidates you want to support in your local races and work your way up to national candidates. The presidential election is the bright, shiny race that get’s the bulk of the attention and airtime, but races in your districts, cities, counties, and states are equally important. These are the elected officials that determine our property and school taxes, our local laws, our judges, sheriffs, comptrollers, and school boards. These races are important to the issues that hit us close to home, and they have the most effect on our everyday lives. Information on local races isn’t as easy to find, however, so start by concentrating your research there.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the booth, have the audacity to get on the ballot. There’s something to the saying “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” It is possible that what you are searching for in a candidate is simply not on the ballot, whether it’s a level of transparency or an initiative you find critical. There may be some policy or political change you think needs to be a linchpin in making this nation great. If you can’t find the candidate that represents you or your community it may be time to put your passion, perspective, and skillset on the ballot. There is no better place to be than at the table when decisions are being made that affect your future and the futures of others.
So, do your due diligence, check your sources, and search for candidates who represent your interests. But if you can’t find one, be the change that you want to see.