Did your preferred candidate (or candidates, for those pay attention to down-ballot races) win? Did your preferred candidate lose?
Guess what? The work isn’t over. In fact, it hasn’t even started yet.
This year, which has been so odd and exhausting, offered up one bright, shiny good thing: historic voter turnout. And that’s awesome! Every eligible person should be involved in choosing their government.
But, in case you didn’t realize it, our responsibilities as citizens don’t end there. And they certainly aren’t covered by buying campaign merchandise, putting up a sign or attending a rally.
I’ve lived in a rural community for more than a decade, and before that lived in and near small cities. No matter where you are or what you do, there’s usually a core group of people who show up to do the work. They come early and stay late. They make sure things get done. And, when they get burned out and quit showing up, someone else begrudgingly steps into their spots and continues the same pattern.
You know what would be more productive than complaining or cheering about election outcomes on social media? If all people who espoused political opinions as if they were cheering for their favorite sports teams showed up at one organization in their communities and got really involved.
Do you consider yourself a Republican or a Democrat? Have you ever been to a district meeting of the party to which you claim to have given your allegiance? If you haven’t, are you actually the label you have given yourself? Or have you just jumped on a bandwagon the same way some people became Golden State Warrior fans a few years back? Show up to one of those local party meetings. See if you actually agree with what’s going on. If it’s really for you, make some phone calls, study policies, maybe even put your name on a ballot.
Now, if you’re like me, you’ll never darken the door of a political party meeting (unless, in my case, it’s for work purposes). I join Alexander Hamilton in believing political parties to be “the most fatal disease” of government and the recently passed Alex Trebek in voting “for the person I feel is best suited to deal with the problems at the time.” But that doesn’t mean there aren’t places in communities for people like me to make a difference. I volunteer with my daughter’s 4-H club, I coach softball in our local league, and I try to show up when there’s something that needs to be done. Churches, schools, and fraternal or service groups always are looking for more people to be involved.
Other things those non-political-party enthusiasts among us might consider are offices like school board, park board, water board, library board, township board or even city or county commission. Those typically don’t operate on Republican-Democrat lines but instead are made up of local people doing essential — and often thankless — work for their communities.
If you’re in agriculture, there are lists of places for you to get involved. Groups that promote or work on policy for crops or livestock, like a soybean council or a stockmen’s association, are pretty much always looking for new people. So are bigger umbrella groups, like Farmers Union and Farm Bureau. Those groups tend toward grassroots involvement and probably have county-level groups for you to dip your toe in.
Our world is filled with unnecessary and unproductive partisanship and vitriol. Before you make the next political Facebook post, stop and think about whether you’re actually making your world a better place by writing about how much you hate another person or group. I guarantee you’re doing more harm than good. Instead, find your purpose, find your place. And get to work.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's content manager. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at email@example.com or 701-595-0425.