Abraham Lincoln once declared the American democratic system to be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” To ensure that government reflects the needs, values, and aspirations of each citizen, it is imperative that Americans from all walks of life are engaged in the political arena. Notwithstanding this responsibility, residents who want to participate in politics may feel overwhelmed by myriad opportunities for action. Where does one start? How does one participate effectively?
This site was designed by Ph.D. students in political science at the CUNY Graduate Center, each of whom teaches undergraduate courses in politics within the CUNY system. Following the most recent US Presidential election, we have witnessed an outpouring of enthusiasm from students who want to get involved in some form of political action, but don’t know where or how to begin. In response to this demand, this site was created to help residents, generally, and students, in particular, to navigate the multiple paths to political engagement in the United States.
Compiled here are resources for participating in the formal aspects of government, from contacting representatives to express opinions about pending legislation to getting involved in the political parties that share your ideals and policy goals. You may even want to consider a career in public service or running for office yourself to influence policy directly, and we have included information about such endeavors.
In addition to these formal avenues of participation, there are many powerful ways to influence politics from outside of government institutions. Community organizations and interest groups focus on mobilizing at the grassroots level: they rely on organizing citizen activists for public demonstrations and media campaigns. Protests, rallies, boycotts, and the general right to dissent are protected in the Constitution as ways to keep governments honest and accountable. We, therefore, provide information about conducting these activities, either with an organization or on your own.
One can also be engaged without interacting with the government or with movements at all. This is increasingly true as more of our social lives take place online. In light of this fact, we have included resources that will help you steer through the vast array of news media so that when you discuss politics with friends, family, and colleagues, you do so from the vantage point of a critical media consumer.
Finally, this site aims to assist those in need to plan for their futures with a clear understanding of the opportunities and constraints within the United States political system, as well as to educate concerned residents about how best to be an ally to those who are victims of harassment or discrimination.