When America’s founders created the Constitution, they specifically gave citizens the tools to challenge their government when necessary. They bestowed the rights to speak out, establish a free press, assemble peacefully, and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Now, more than ever, we need to use those First Amendment freedoms and challenge the corruption and abuse in all levels of government.
In these precarious times, people across the country are speaking out against those who would overturn our civil liberties and protections. That resistance is precisely what the founders would want us to do. Here’s some suggestions on how you can turn the tide, too.
Join a group that shares your values and goals
Joining an activist group emboldens you to speak out and magnifies the effectiveness of your voice. Such groups greatly expand the number and variety of political actions you can take. You can organize a protest, march for a cause, or support a favorite candidate—to name just a few.
The best resource on effective activism is the Indivisible Guide created by former congressional staffers. Thousands of local groups use the guide to hold their members of Congress accountable. The following groups are active in the Outer Banks and North Carolina:
- Stronger NC — Provides the tools and resources to fight for social justice, women’s rights, and government responsibility and to be active in local and national legislation.
- Stronger NC OBX — Supports, informs, and inspires political and social activism on the Outer Banks.
- Carolina Resistance — Fights for public education, reproductive rights, healthcare for all, clean air and water, voting and civil rights, and economic justice.
- Democracy North Carolina — Uses research, organizing, and advocacy to increase voter participation, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and achieve a government truly of, by, and for the people. (Nonpartisan)
- Common Cause North Carolina — Encourages citizen participation in making government more open, honest, and accountable; focuses heavily on gerrymandering. (Nonpartisan)
- Progress NC Action — Invests in public education, protects natural resources, and fights for a system that values the voices of voter over special interests.
Call and write representatives
Call and write our county, state, and congressional representatives regularly. Be clear and concise and always focus on only one issue at a time. Keep a record of all your communications, as it could prove helpful later.
When writing, consider using postcards. They can be particularly effective because they draw immediate attention and can be read quickly. When calling, it’s best to use a script. It makes the task easier and ensures you make your point. You can write your own script or use one prepared by an activist group.
You’ll find a thorough list of groups who send out daily and weekly action lists at Action Alliance. We also recommend signing up for the Action Checklist for People of Conscience, which sends an email every Sunday with specific actions to take during the week; backed by good research.
Visit state and congressional representatives’ offices
With so few elected officials holding town halls these days, visiting their offices offers an effective alternative. Plan a trip with some friends, and determine a time when you can go together. Then develop your questions. Once you arrive, politely but firmly ask to meet the representative directly. If the representative isn’t in, ask a staffer when he or she is expected back. If the staffer doesn’t know, say you’ll wait until he or she finds out.
Traveling to Washington, D.C., is certainly one way to visit a member of Congress (MoC), but each also has a number of offices distributed throughout their districts. You can find all the office addresses and phone numbers for each MoC at Contacting Congress. You can also request a visit on the site.
For state representatives, visit the North Carolina General Assembly website. In addition to finding contact information, you can see the bills the representative has introduced and his or her voting record.
Write letters to editors
Writing letters to editors raises community awareness of an issue or candidate. Editors give first priority to letters responding to previously published pieces. When writing a response, do not reference competing news outlets such as TV, radio, and other newspapers. Here are more tips that will help your letter get published.
- Provide your full name, address, email, and phone number.
- Keep your letter between 200 and 400 words. It should fit on one sheet of paper—double spaced.
- Make your main point in the first sentence. Most people won’t bother to read further than a sentence or two if they don’t know what the point is.
- Test your letter on a friend or family member to gauge its effectiveness before you mail it.
If you have questions or want someone to review or edit your letter, the Dare County Democratic Party has a committee that will gladly help. You can call us at 252-219-0074 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Below is information on our local newspapers.
Island Free Press
P.O. Box 414, Buxton, NC 27920
Outer Banks Sentinel — Limit to 400 words.
P.O. Box 546, Nags Head, NC 27959
The Outer Banks Voice
The Virginian-Pilot — Limit to 150 words.
P.O. Box 449, Norfolk, VA 23501-0449