We are in the middle of the early voting period for 2018’s midterm. For students interested in local and national politics, this transition may give way to a new set of questions: what are ways to stay civically engaged beyond voting?
Carson Bolding, sophomore and public relations officer of Trinity Progressives (T-Prog) listed a variety of routes students can take to get involved in local politics, regardless of specific political views.
“Educating yourself on the issues and knowing what the ballot’s going to look like when you [vote] and who you want to vote for, [and] going to meet-and-greets and getting to know candidates and hear their stances on things is important,” Bolding said.
While the midterms may be ending, Bolding emphasized that campaign work is always ongoing.
“There’s always phone banks and blockwalks for any of the candidates running in San Antonio going on at any time. They always need as many volunteers as they can get,” Bolding said. “The Texas Organizing Project does a lot, and Gina Ortiz-Jones is running in a swing district right near us, and [both] always need a lot of volunteers. There’s also Joseph Kopser, who’s a Democrat running [in Texas].”
Isaiah Mitchell, junior and chairman of Tigers For Liberty, which is in the process of merging with a larger chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas, said that students can use the time after midterms to refine their political views.
“In Tigers For Liberty, we have a big emphasis on local politics and on education in terms of principles, and so our members get free books,” Mitchell said. “Right now we’re reading ‘The Road to Serfdom’, and so we talk about philosophy, ideology and principles a lot, which is definitely something that people should be doing on a rolling basis all the time — learning more about their own philosophies and foundations for why they vote a certain way.”
Emma McMahan, sophomore and co-president of TFL, spoke about the importance of having political discussions with a wide variety of people, and said that a good way to start having these discussions is to join either TFL or T-Prog.
“We have resources and connections to people who work in politics, so that’s a good way to get started on campus,” McMahan said. “Students that tend to be more conservative can go to [TFL], while students that are more liberal go to T-Prog. We’re both nonpartisan; we do help to support partisan candidates, but you don’t have to be Republican to join [TFL], and you don’t need to be a Democrat to join T-Prog.”
Alex Birnel is the current Advocacy Manager of MOVE Texas, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that focuses on voter registration and recently collaborated with SGA for National Voter Registration Day, and co-chair of San Antonio’s Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) chapter.
Birnel co-founded MOVE Texas (originally called MOVE San Antonio) with a group of friends as an undergraduate student at UTSA. In an interview, Birnel encouraged students to recognize and harness their political power as young people.
“Couch yourself in confidence about your own work, and apply what you learn to local conditions,” Birnel said. “You don’t necessarily have to form a nonprofit like MOVE for this. Start off with noticing what workplace issues or gender inequalities or economic inequalities are in your vicinity and how you can come together with others to solve these problems.”
Birnel also discussed ways to get involved in San Antonio politics.
“A lot of our power as a city is consolidated downtown: that’s where City Council meetings take place, and also where a lot of activism and protests happen,” Birnel said. “A good way to approach organizing is going to the source — finding out about events listed on social media, asking questions in person and online … following local newspapers, and especially reading online comment threads on their websites is a good way to gauge how citizens feel about topics.”
Students who want to learn more about T-Prog can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. TFL can be contacted at TigersForLiberty@trinity.edu. Students who want to learn more about MOVE Texas or San Antonio DSA can go to their official websites or contact Birnel at email@example.com.