How To Get Into Politics in Your State

Reading Time: 4 minutes

We are in a period of great importance. Climate change, the fate of our democracy, widening inequality, and other questions have seldom seemed so important. Engagement in politics is at all-time-highs. It is hard to find someone who is not passionately engaged with the politics of the time. For some people, the desire to be engaged goes beyond having strong opinions and voting regularly. For these people, there is a desire to get into politics, to step into the ring and fight for their values and for their country.

The first thing to remember is that politics is not a lucrative field. Consider that the president of the United States earns just $400,000 a year, with an expense account of only $50,000. The average salary of a chief executive officer in the United States is just over $770,000 a year. Over the course of your political career, you should be prepared to earn much less than your peers. Even if you become president! Politics is a calling, something that you do because you want to serve your country. The typical route is to start off at the local level and work your way up. This is not a period in which you should expect to have a particularly impressive salary.

Join a Political Campaign

All political campaigns run on the backs of an army of volunteer workers. Join one such army to get started on your political career. This will give you an insight into how political campaigns are run. Some of the tasks you will first be asked to do will be menial. You’ll have to make calls to voters, help register them, go out to meet voters, and other such tasks. You won’t be changing the world, you will be a small cog in a great machine. However, if you do well and get noticed, your responsibilities will increase and you will rise in the organization. President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, for instance, worked on political campaigns before they became the political forces they are today. You have to start at the ground floor.

Join a Political Party

Politics is a contest of ideas in which different groups compete to achieve political ideals through the realities of politics. In this contest of ideas, you have to take a side, a side that best reflects your values. In the United States, the two major parties are the Democrats, who at present control the presidency, and both houses of Congress; and the Republicans, who control the majority of state legislatures and courts. Become a registered Democrat or a registered Republican, or join a third party (there are three at present: the Liberterian Party, the Green Party and the Constitution Party).

Becoming a registered member of a political party puts you in a family of ideas, a family you work with to advance your ideas, get candidates who share your values into office, and pass laws and push policies that reflect your beliefs.

Work within the party structures, meeting party leaders, joining party efforts, raising money, among other things. You cannot get elected to office without the backing of a political organization. You need to become part of one and show its members that you are committed to the cause.

Contribute to Political Campaigns

In the world of politics, money gives access or at least some degree of influence. Candidates need money to fund political campaigns. Indeed, running for president is a billion dollar enterprise. Candidates have all the incentive in the world to listen to their donors and the more you give, the greater your access and your influence. Even a small amount of money donated to a local campaign may get you noticed by your candidate. You may even found a political action committee, or a “super PAC” in order to fund candidates of your choice or support them through other ways.

Follow Political Issues

You can’t participate in politics without knowing the issues of the day. The easiest way to do this is to follow the news. Read local papers, national newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. In a hyper-polarized world, not only do voters tend to go to specific publications and news houses, but news houses tend to belong to well defined sides, even if they do not explicitly say this. So on the one hand, you want to get the most impartial news, but you also have to know where your voters get their news so you understand how they perceive the world.

Work Your Way Up the Ladder

Politics is a career and a career in which you must work to advance. Start at the local level, by getting involved in municipal meetings, working with community organizers and activists, learning about the issues and building coalitions to achieve clear goals in your local community.

Education is an area that is very important to many Americans and a good place to start your career. Attend school board meetings, learn the issues, listen to parents, teachers and students and see how you can contribute. Every important cause is always looking for people to join and help. You will always find openings that you can take to make your contribution.

Run for Office

Running for office is the height of any political career. Start local. Few politicians ascend to the highest offices without starting at the local level. Whether it’s running for secretary of state, governor, a judgeship, Congress or the presidency, your career has to start somewhere and local is where I suggest you start.

Before you run, you need to build a team who will advise you, whom you can trust to run various aspects of your political organization, and whom you can trust. The quality of your team will determine the quality of your campaign. Aim high to rise high.

You should be prepared for the most intense scrutiny of your life. A rule of thumb is to assume that every secret you have will get out into the open. Your life will be laid bare before all.

Share This:

Leave a Reply

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.