Now that the dust has settled, what can involved people do?
(originally posted at Portland Press Herald)
The election is over. Now it's time to breathe.
For a while, everywhere you turned, there was some reminder that the "Election of a Lifetime" was happening -- whether it was the constant TV ads, the Saturday Night Live skits, the overwhelming amount of campaign signs, or the multiple palm cards stuck under your door.
If one more person forwards you a YouTube video of a cartoon Obama dancing with a cartoon McCain, you might scream. But luckily, that time has passed. Your life can move on, and so can your e-mail inbox.
But there's a little bit of a "Now what?" feeling that hits post-election. All of this build-up about "change," or "oil," or "recession," or "insert-buzz-word-here" drains away and leaves a lot of questions without a lot of answers.
All this time and energy and money has been funneled into getting your attention for this one special day -- and now that it's come and gone, the television crews have gone home, and all that's left are the rusted wires from those pesky lawn signs.
The candidates have been elected, but the issues haven't disappeared. They never really will. That's the difference between electoral politics and issue-based politics. And that's the difference between the League of Young Voters and other PAC organizations -- the League sticks around and continues to make change.
It's a mantra we've been pushing for a while, but only in the wake of such an intense election cycle does it finally seem to be heard. After the 2004 election, the League refocused and reminded Mainers that we weren't -- and aren't -- temporary.
We've spent the past four years working on local campaigns, local issues, and local education. We will continue to do so, even though election season has ended.
If you picked up one of our voter guides, you probably noticed some reoccurring themes. For one, the League feels pretty strongly about electing progressive candidates -- but what does progressive mean to the League? Let me break it down for you.
The League is a pro-choice organization. To the League, being progressive means supporting a woman's right to choose; comprehensive sex education for all; a minor's right to access contraceptives; and funding for affordable, accessible abortion care.
The League is an environmental advocacy organization. Environmental advocacy can seem pretty broad, but here's how the League sees it: advocating for alternative transportation and safer bike possibilities; educating renters and home-owners about how to make their homes energy efficient; supporting the movement for green jobs; and supporting policy that helps Maine become a more sustainable state.
The League is a pro-education organization. This one's pretty obvious: the League helped support the passage of Opportunity Maine.
But to be more or less specific, being pro-education means working to engage high school and college students in their communities and promoting accessible and quality education for all.
The League is an anti-violence organization. We'd like to believe no one is "pro-violence" but it's a lot more complicated than that. Being anti-violence, for us, means being against the Iraq War and supporting initiatives to educate youth about everything from gun violence to hate crimes.
The League is a civic engagement organization -- in case you hadn't noticed. We work to engage young people in their communities, and we work to make politics accessible, relevant, and fun. Community and political engagement can be as simple as canvassing for the first time to running for office.
So what happens now that the Obama office has closed its doors, and the recycling is full of candidates' lawn signs? Now that the bumper stickers are officially dated, the propaganda posters can't be parodied anymore, and the smear campaigns are put to bed?
Now's the time to check out what the League is up to and get involved. There's no reason for all that passion from the 2008 election to dwindle away.