I never get all that excited about national elections, to be honest. I’ve worked on some specific issue campaigns related to abortion and gay marriage, but I tend to have difficulties with politics because my stances are significantly more radical than those of the available candidates. If I had to select a party, I would go with the socialists. I’m more interested in policy than in candidates, and so I’d like to use this post-election-day period as an opportunity to highlight the need for social action.
Politics has its uses. Government cooperation is necessary for many causes. But we can’t underestimate the power of social awareness for social change. A coworker and I were just talking about the election and she mentioned that she doesn’t actually know that many Republicans. I shared my theory that most Republicans our age probably come to the party based on economic issues, not social ones. Many Republicans I’ve known have softened their stance or even switched parties after becoming aware of the importance of social issues such as gay rights, feminism, etc.
Most young Republicans I know, particularly those who are not evangelical Christians, consider social issues secondary and take a relatively weak stance on those issues. I’ve known many young Republicans who weren’t active homophobes, pro-lifers, or anti-feminists, but simply didn’t consider these issues important in their own lives. A lot of these friends had never met a queer person before me, or a person who’s had an abortion, or had never really thought about feminist issues. Just talking about these things, or simply being aware of a friend or friends who are directly and substantially affected by these issues, led to a shift in these young people’s stances on social issues.
Remember this when you’re rallying for social change. Visibility is important. One-on-one conversations are very important. It’s easy to consider an issue secondary when it doesn’t directly affect you, or to view a minority group as “other” when you think you don’t know any members of that group, and only recognize the group based on televised portrayals. But a dinner table chat can break down barriers. In the periods between elections, we should concentrate on these conversations and how to bring activism down to a person-to-person level. Radical change starts at home.