Wooster students have a lot of opinions. I’m sure this is not news to anyone, considering you’re reading this on the Viewpoints page of the Voice, likely next to some hot takes about U.S. politics and Lowry food. I’m grateful to be in an environment where opinions are freely expressed and discussed among the community, but something distressing I noticed lately is how cynical and hopeless the opinions I’m hearing have become, especially in regard to politics and the upcoming general election.
Let me just say — I understand. I’m certainly guilty of feeling hopeless, too. The 2020 presidential primary season was intense, and the day my top-choice candidate announced she was dropping out — not too long after I’d voted for her in the Ohio primary — I felt like all the optimism I held for this election was carelessly wrung out of my body. But then I started thinking, what had I actually done in order to help this candidate succeed in the first place? Sure, I took an hour to go around and knock on some doors for her over the weekend, with limited success. I tried out phone banking once on a free afternoon — with extreme frustration at the auto-dialer, so that didn’t last very long. And, of course, I voted in a pretty inconsequential primary in which the ballots weren’t even counted until after my candidate had dropped out.
In retrospect, I was mostly talk and little action, and I knew I needed to do more. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign was the spark that led me to sign up as a volunteer on a local Congressional candidate’s website this May. I figured that clicking “Join the Team!” was a step in the right direction, and I was correct. I earned a spot as a campaign fellow on the field team. Since then I’ve been working to elect a Democratic woman to Congress in the most competitive Red-to-Blue district in the country. It’s not easy work by any means — calling up random voters on weekday afternoons means you’ll hear some interesting things on the phone — but it’s definitely gratifying work. After the calls and conversations are done for the day, I know I made a tangible difference in a race that’s important to me and my community, and I feel hopeful.
All that being said, here is my advice to anyone who’s feeling especially downtrodden at this point in the election cycle — whether it’s from staring into the soulless, bloodshot eyes of Mike Pence during the VP debate, reading careless opinion pieces that label Trump as “resolute” while failing to mention his racist dogwhistling and lack of regard for human life or just from the downpour of mind-boggling headlines that never seem to end this month — pick a race. Any race. Find a candidate you support who’s running for Congress, senate, governor, state legislature, or even president, and peel yourself away from Twitter or TikTok for two hours to make calls for them. I’ve met so many avid volunteers these past few months, and they all tell me that they’ve kept coming back for the same reason — using their time and effort for good makes them feel calmer, happier or just more optimistic for our country.
As my field director always says — democracy is not a noun, it’s a verb. If you want to feel better about your democracy, start putting those opinions into action and working for it. The moment you inform someone of their choices in this election, or help them find their polling place or even just motivate them to vote this year, you’re doing democracy. And it’s a worthwhile fight.