For millions of Americans of all political persuasions, Tuesday’s general election brought a welcome end to the season of watching Super PAC advertisements, getting phone calls from pollsters and listening to pundits’ predictions. Claremont College students may be above average in their political attention span, but they are certainly not immune to the feeling of election overload. Especially for students who devoted a great deal of time and energy to following and participating in campaigns, now is the time for a well-deserved break from elections.
We hasten, however, to add a clarification: In this moment of respite from electoral politics, students should not withdraw from all politics. In order for our system of government to function at its best, citizens—including young citizens—must remain engaged in the political process, even when there is no election looming. Rather than lapse into political non-participation, students should start looking for new ways to influence how policies are made and implemented. In the spirit of continued civic engagement, allow us to suggest a few non-electoral methods of interaction with politics.
First, we encourage students to communicate with the officials who represent them at all levels of government. This suggestion is especially relevant for residents of Claremont, who are about to see a change in congressional representation, as Hannah Li reports this week. Judy Chu, a Democrat who was just elected from the new congressional district that includes Claremont, showed that she is paying attention to the demands of 5C students earlier this year when she spoke at Pomona College in support of the 17 employees who were fired for their lack of work authorization. Chu appears to believe that it is in her political self-interest to take Claremont students into account, so students should not hesitate to contact her office with messages about the issues that matter to them.
Second, we urge students to play a role in determining the effects of pre-existing government policies on their communities. Some 5C students are already setting an excellent example for this type of activism. As Caroline Bowman writes this week, a group of students are about to hold a workshop to help undocumented immigrants from the Inland Empire take advantage of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a new federal program that is relieving fears of imminent deportation for some young immigrants. By helping neighbors with their DACA applications, these students are contributing to the overall effectiveness of the program.
Third, we call on all 5C students to consume a hearty diet of news about local, state and national politics. Staying informed will make you a savvier voter, but it will also enable you find unexpected opportunities for political participation during the electoral offseason.