The year is wrapping up, and that means that we are on the brink of ringing in 2018 -- and midterm elections. Many have pegged this upcoming run to the polls as a major opportunity for progressives to wrestle government control from Republicans. Sure, we still have months to go before the election, but now is the time to start planning for victory in November.
Here is your step-by-step to-do list to ensure that you're ready for the next election.
1. Double Check That You Are Registered
Obviously it's important to ensure your voter registration if you have moved since the last election, gotten married or otherwise changed your name or location since the last time you cast a ballot. But it might not hurt to check regardless, especially if you live in a state that is big on purging voter rolls and marking people inactive if they go even one election without voting.
Here's a place that will help you double-check your registration, but be sure you do it early. Lots of states close registration a month or earlier before a primary or general election.
2. Find Out Your Primary/Caucus Date
The Senate upset in Alabama was stunning, but lets be honest, it probably wouldn't have happened if Luther Strange had received the GOP nomination instead of Roy Moore. In many places, voting in a primary or caucus to pick a nominee is as important as voting in the general. We can't win races without the right candidates on the ballot, so go make your vote count there, too.
3. Learn Which Races Are Happening
Obviously your House member will be up for reelection, but who else is on the ticket? Are you in one of the states with a senator up for reelection? Or is it a governor year? Maybe a special election to finish a term of a politician who resigned mid-year? Get a list together early so you can follow the candidates, and keep updating it -- you never know what races may suddenly end up on the 2018 ballot.
Also, don't forget your local races -- state House and Senate, city council and board races. Local government determine how and if schools get funded, health care is expanded, sanctuary cities are created and anti-discrimination bills are passed. All politics is local.
4. Find a Race -- and Commit to It
Want to finally see your corrupt congressman replaced? Or a woman in the governor's mansion? Maybe it's time to get that person who keeps pushing creationism off the school board? If a cause really matters to you, pick one race to be your focus -- and do whatever you can to make that one end in victory. Volunteer, knock on doors, shuttle voters to the polls, host a fundraiser or sport a lawn sign. If every person commits to the cycle, we can flip seats left and right.
5. Considering Running for Office
Don't see a candidate that you can support with all of your heart? Maybe that means you need to run!
It's still very early and lots of incumbents don't have challengers yet. Even if you live in the reddest of red districts, every incumbent Republican needs a challenger. And even if you don't win the race, you'll be getting your own issues into the arena, finding fellow activists and forcing a candidate to use resources to battle you, leaving fewer funds for more competitive races.
6. Donate Money
Campaigns are expensive, and lots of new politicians are hitting the scene who don't have extensive political backgrounds for networking or personal wealth to draw from. If you have money to spare, be sure to invest in candidates that aren't only progressive, but also come from underrepresented communities in politics: women, LGBT activists, people of color, the disabled, young adults and recent immigrants. Congress is predominately male, predominately white and oh-so-very Christian -- none of which represents the current face of the U.S.
Here are a few resources to check out:
7. Read. Write. Comment. Talk
Be an informed voter and an informed advocate. Read all news sources, both to know the truth and what the other side is alleging. Send letters to the editors or comment on friends' social media if they are spreading mistruths. Write editorials about the issues and the candidates best set to address them. Talk to your friends, your neighbors and your family about who you are supporting and why. Every vote matters, and you can be a one-person canvassing campaign all on your own.
Nothing matters in the end, though, except whether or not you turn out on election day. Vote for the best candidate -- yes, even if that means “the lesser of two evils.” As we learned from 2016, protest votes hurt -- they harm immigrants, minorities, women, the environment, the country and democracy itself. If you can't bring yourself to commit to any other action on the list, voting is the one thing you absolutely must do if we are to take back the power.