Michelle Mruk

Without a doubt, the most effective way to make a difference politically is by acting and voting locally. That said, America in 2018 is a dystopia-fucked shitshow, and it's borderline impossible not to get sucked into Trump's horrifying soap opera. Here's how you can help nationally.

Stay informed, but stay sane. Staying in- formed is vital—but it’s also just a few clicks away from “falling into a downward spiral of catastrophe porn,” and it’s easy to confuse “constantly refreshing the news” with “doing something that matters.” So check the news regularly, but in doses that won’t ruin your life: Read the Mercury’s daily “Good Morning, News” posts and sign up for the New York Times’ “Morning Briefing” email to get quick surveys of national and local stories. Chances are you don’t need to stay up to the minute all day—but get in the habit of recapping the day’s most important issues. Two solid nightly email briefings are the Washington Post’s “Evening Edition” and Vox Sentences.

Call, email, and annoy your elected officials. Your representatives can’t represent you if they don’t know what you think. Let them know, and let them know often.

Vote. In every election. All elections matter, and even rinky-dink podunk races can end up influencing national politics. We encourage you to be that annoying person who makes sure friends, family, and random weirdos on the street vote—all their votes matter, too.

Volunteer. Assisting local causes and campaigns is important, but if there are national races and movements you care about, there’s a good chance that, even from afar, you can do something to help them out. Which leads us to....

Donate. Yes, America’s bullshit campaign finance system is rigged in favor of the richest assholes on the planet. But until we enact national campaign finance reform, it’s the only system we’ve got. Kicking a few bucks to candidates you believe in—whether they’re running for Portland City Council or president of the United States—makes a difference. The same goes for organizations, both national and regional (though regional ones probably need your money more). Before you start throwing cash at causes, do your homework—check charitynavigator.org to see what nonprofits will make the best use of your money.

Write postcards. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get involved in national politics, postcardstovoters.org sends its volunteers the addresses of voters who can participate in key elections across the country. By writing quick postcards to those voters—encouraging them to vote, and sharing info about the race and its candidates—you can boost voter turnout and advocate for progressive candidates in tight races.

Support reliable, independent news media. Everyone likes to complain about “the media”—but hardly anyone actually works to make it better. With every click, subscription, or YouTube view, you help keep that news outlet’s lights on—so pay attention to where you get your news, and financially support the places that do it right, whether it’s with the stodgy deep-dives of PBS NewsHour, the fiery dedication of the Intercept, or the perspective-altering investigations of ProPublica.

Listen, just like... every once in a while? Pay attention to people you might not agree with—and have non-confrontational conversations about where they’re coming from. Familiarizing yourself with different political beliefs and lived experiences—and accepting that polarizing issues are often more nuanced than they first appear—can be uncomfortable, but it’s vital to making sustainable progress. Plus, maybe you’re wrong about something! That’s okay!

Run for office. Think you’re so smart? Think you could do it better? Great! Prove it.