With all of the negativity coming from the new Trump administration, it's easy to feel like you're powerless. But the silver lining in this cloud of despair is that we still live in a democracy, which means that your voice can and will be heard. People all over the country have been coming together for rallies, protests, and marches in opposition to Trump's policies, which is great.
However, you don't always need to gather a large group for the government to listen to you. Another great way to make your voice be heard is to talk to your representatives! There are people up there in Congress whose sole purpose is to represent you. Do you have an opinion on education? Abortion? Immigration? Taxes? Then let your Congressperson know!
If you need a little refresher from your high school government class, remember that Congress is made up of two sides: the Senate and the House of Representatives. Each state in the U.S. has two Senators for a total of 100 Senators in Congress. The number of representatives a state has in the House of Representatives depends on the state's population.
For example, California, the largest state in the country, has 53 representatives. Georgia, a smaller state, has 14 representatives. As per our system of checks and balances, if the government wants to pass a bill, it must be voted on by both sides of Congress. If it passes through a majority vote by both the House and the Senate, the president has 10 days to approve it or veto it. The judicial branch decides how these laws will be enforced.
A Congressperson's job is to represent you, so they really value your input (and they really do listen, because making you happy gets them re-elected!). Your representatives don't just exist in Washington D.C.- they have offices in your district and across the country. To find contact information for your representative in the House, look here. To find contact information for your Senators, look here. Here are the best ways to get in touch with your representatives.
It's as easy as picking up the phone! Many former congressional aides have said that phone calls are the most effective way to contact your representatives. Each Congressperson has an office with a team of people to field your calls. These staffers log all of the calls that they receive during business hours. When you call them, make sure you know what you're going to say. Tell them how you want them to vote on a certain issue, prepare any questions that you want to ask, and be ready to provide your personal information so they can verify that you're calling from the right district.
Sign a petition
But not one of those Change.org petitions. Change.org isn't the best for actually making a change, because the website doesn't verify who signs their petitions, which means that people can sign the same petition multiple times or under fake accounts. If you want to make a real change with a real petition, use a whitehouse.gov petition. If the petition gets 100,000 signatures (that are from verified email accounts) in 30 days, then it has to be reviewed by the White House. The White House will even send the people who signed the petition an email when they've reviewed and responded to the requests.
Democracy.io makes it super easy to email your representatives. All you have to do is enter your address and Democracy.io will find your Senators and district representative for you. An automated email system is already in place that lets you choose the topic you wish to write about, whether it's Social Security or foreign affairs. This ensures that your email will get where it needs to be. Make sure that you specifically state in your letter what you want the Congressperson to do and why, but keep it short- they get tons of emails every day!
Send them a letter
Once you've found your representative's office mailing address, write them a letter! Again, make sure that your letter is concise and to the point, because these people have hundreds of pieces of mail to sort through every day. Tell them why you're writing, what specific bill you're referring to, and what action you want them to take. Be sure to address them properly and to include your information as well so it can be verified for accuracy. For more tips on writing to your Congressperson, click here.
If you want to be up-to-date on bills going through Congress, you can subscribe to a free daily or weekly newsletter that will tell you which bills are coming up for debate. If you want to stay up-to-date on the political climate in general, try theSkimm -- they give you a free daily run-down of all the hottest news stories.