Emotions surrounding the 2016 Presidential election are still high. The juxtaposition of extreme views brought previously festering issues to the foreground, and many people's perspectives on the country they live in were changed in its wake. As a result, it's more important than ever for citizens everywhere to make their voices heard, and push the change we want to see in our country. The midterm elections certainly do not get the same spotlight and popular attention that Presidential elections do, but they are no less important. In fact, they play a truly crucial role in our ability to exact change in trying times. To that end, here are a number of ways to support Democrats in 2018, because it's not just the White House that makes the big decisions: With our system of checks and balances, Republicans in Congress are just as important as a Republican incumbent in the White House, if not more so.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when trying to support their party or policies is to undervalue smaller elections. Voting population drops off drastically from Presidential to midterm elections, and even more so when you get down to local elections. Because of the comparatively limited spotlight that these smaller elections obtain, many of the people who do vote in them tend to be less informed about their candidates, and often skip votes, or vote based on party designations, rather. In order to support the Democratic party, and not just the national Democratic candidates, it's important to stay informed and remember the importance of smaller-scale elections. Check out your local papers and political sites to get as much information as you can about upcoming candidates, so your decisions and actions can be fully informed. And, of course, don't forget to vote.
Get to know the candidates.
One of the most important ways to support Democrats in 2018 is by placing due importance on the 2018 midterms. This means getting to know your state's candidates and potential candidates well ahead of time, and choosing who you support carefully. On one hand, you want to take a close look at the policies, values, and political history of each candidate, and take stock of which possibilities most strongly align with your own views and beliefs, but you also want to look at the way your vote will impact the Democratic party as a whole, which includes taking stock of each candidate's role within the political system, and their possibility of actually getting elected. You can visit sites like Ballotpedia for broad lists, as well as make use of resources like Our Revolution, a database of left-leaning candidates.
Keep up with the news.
Politics tends to revolve around politicians, but at the end of the day, it's about the stances those politicians take on current issues and events. So, even more important than knowing your candidates is knowing your issues. In the current age, it can be difficult—or, impossible—to find truly non-partisan sources who report on the news, especially when so many get their information from social media bubbles. There are two things you should do to avoid living in a political echo chamber of your own design: Seek out the inarguable facts in every story you read (meaning: sources!), and take your news and information from multiple sources with different political biases. By keeping a steady diet of news from sources you tend to disagree with, you'll stay better informed of the opposition, and be able to strengthen and adapt your own views without the kind of biasing pressure that comes from a sea of similarly-minded friends on social media.
Keep in touch.
Your vote, at the end of the day, may be the most important way to support Democrats in 2018. While there's nothing more dangerous than a, "My vote doesn't really matter, it's just one vote," attitude, it's also dangerous to let yourself be satisfied by merely voting. One of the best ways to support Democrats in 2018 is to boost voter turnout by being vocal with friends and family. Especially if you know people in swing states and Republican-dominated areas, discussing the importance of voting with them could make a massive difference in this election's outcome. You also want to be willing to rationally discuss politics with those in your life who disagree with you: Taking a morally superior, anger-fueled approach to political disagreements is the fast, self-righteous way to make sure progress never happens. Our best chance to pick up seats in the 2018 midterm elections, and to oust Republican candidates to make way for the people we want to see in power, is to get people voting, period.
Connect with social media.
While social media should not be your sole source of information and opinion, it IS a major part of the way politics play out today, on a local, national, and global level. Social media is the weapon and the streets, the battlefield in which political parties will gain leverage over one another. To connect with the Democratic party, you can go to their Facebook page, or, you can tweet @TheDemocrats to connect with the whole party's twitter, @SenateDems and @HouseDemocrats for the Senate and House Democrats, and @dscc and @dccc for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign committee, respectively. Social media allows us to more easily communicate with parties than ever before.
Understand policies and politicians—and the difference between them.
The flour to the cake of political change, the necessary (though not sufficient) foundation to support, is staying informed. This means having a developed and educated interest in both sides of politics: the issues themselves, and the politicians who support them. You don't just want to blindly support the leading Democratic candidates—you want to take an active role in shaping the party. This means understanding the changes you want to see first, and then supporting the candidates who you think can best exact that change. Start with the issues you care most about, investigate the exact policies you would like to see change or remain, and support the candidates who best align with those goals. You can also use various lines of communication with candidates themselves, or the Democratic party in general, to push for those goals. This is exactly how the history of the Democratic party found success throughout the years.
The relationship between politics and money is not a popular one, but it is an important one. At the end of the day, massive imbalances in campaign and party funds translate to fewer opportunities for outreach, lower quality campaigns, and, ultimately, risk the success of the party. Distasteful as it may feel sometimes to donate to a political party, it is important. A related way to support Democrats in 2018 is by fundraising. You can do this on a small, local scale to garner more donations, or volunteer with larger organizations to help raise money for the party.
Focus on specific steps.
When it comes to politics, it's easy to get lost in the big picture, but the big picture is, ultimately, made up of smaller details. It's important to focus your efforts on concrete, tangible steps you want to see that will support the kind of big picture you want. This includes focusing support towards specific candidates through concrete steps like fundraising and donating, voting, raising awareness, and supporting grassroots organizations near you. It also means considering the changes you would like to see within the Democratic party itself, and supporting candidates that will push those changes as well.
Cross party lines.
Staying in a bubble of like-minded people is comfortable, and it feels good, but it only hardens lines and decreases our ability to make changes in the world. Adaptability is key to Democratic survival, and it's important to cross party lines in every way: by obtaining information from many different sources, speaking openly and rationally with people of opposing views, and, perhaps most importantly, educating yourself on the stances of various Republican and other right-wing candidates and supporters.
Don't get discouraged.
Last, but far from least, the best way to support Democrats in 2018 is to not let anything discourage you in your efforts. That is the #1 strategy of any opposition: to make it appear like there is no point in putting your effort towards supporting the Democratic party. You may hear pre-election polls that claim "hope is already lost" and all sorts of other discouragement, but these kinds of statistics change rapidly when election time actually comes to pass. Plus, mid-term elections are notoriously a time of power shifts, meaning that Donald Trump's success in the Presidential election may actually set us up for success in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, regardless of what Republicans in Congress tell their constituents.