Yesterday, Abdul El-Sayed decidedly lost the Democratic primary for Governor of Michigan. As the first election that I was deeply involved in, it stings, but it wasn't too surprising. The polls were very wrong, but my assumptions about turnout and demographics were as well.
What do we do, as volunteers, organizers, and supporters who were so physically and emotionally invested in Abdul's campaign?
I will reluctantly vote for Gretchen Whitmer in November as the lesser of two evils. She's nowhere near as corrupt or moderate as Hillary Clinton, but Whitmer doesn't represent me or my views all that well. I won't be volunteering, advocating, or writing about her positively. When she gets elected, she'll effect the same corporate politics that we worked so hard to dismantle over the last year; I can't betray the cause.
Instead, I can focus my energy on other candidates, causes, and advocacy that I really believe in. There are many options, and experience on Abdul's campaign has given me much more confidence in my ability to influence the world around me. Here, I'll list a few ideas.
Educate yourself with your friends
Developing a deep understanding of issues and political theory is essential to creating a lasting and effective movement. Set up a reading group, blog, or schedule a discussion hour and see where it goes. You'd be surprised how successful this simple act of sharing and analyzing information can be in networking, establishing strong solidarity, and creating lasting, fulfilling friendships.
Find a proximate role model
It's easy to read about or listen to speeches from popular and substantial figures like Abdul, but finding a role model that you can seriously interact with on a personal level, for an extended period of time, can illuminate a path toward what you want to achieve in your life (whether it's in the activist or occupational sphere). Find someone who you can work with, and most importantly, figure out how they got to where they are, and if you'd like to do something similar.
Get involved locally
Start attending your Democratic party meetings. If there's a local organization or chapter that focuses on issues that interest you, get involved with it. Interact with people in your community, bring up problems that trouble you and solutions that can change the situation. Think of politics not as a static reality, but rather a dynamic and changing landscape that you can develop and change (because you can).
Start your own issue group
If you can't find an organization that you're interested in, start your own! Begin by recruiting a few passionate friends to help, creating a plan to get the word out, and contacting community leaders to get involved or endorse your issue.
For example, one of the easiest things you can most immediately impact locally is criminal justice. Start organizing a group that advocates prison and sentencing reform. Contact your local judges and prosecuting attorneys about your concerns regarding drug criminalization, cash bail, and long sentences. If you appear articulate, organized, well-thought-out, and you take your time, they'll listen.
Run for local office or organize a local campaign
In Michigan, you can run for the state legislature if you're 21. You aren't too young. If you work hard, learn, talk to people, find allies, and start small, you can absolutely impact the political landscape.
Democratic Socialists of America already has a fantastic existing organizational structure. It has many iterations of the things mentioned above, and if you're not as confident, it's a great place to start. Find a friend to go to a meeting with, and sign up for committees and projects that interest you.
Knock on doors, hand out flyers
All of the above suggestions involve talking to people. Go out and converse! Make connections! You'd be surprised (or maybe not after Abdul's campaign) with how much you can find in common with the ordinary people you see every day who are just waiting for someone to take the first step and make a big ask.
Push candidates to the left
Like Whitmer, your representatives are supposed to depict a changing public opinion, not necessarily the platform they put forth. It's perfectly acceptable, actually encouraged, to openly criticize decisions you disagree with and try to change the positions of those who represent you by contacting them. If Whitmer suddenly endorses single payer healthcare because of public pressure, I'll applaud her for it.
Don't give up
Whatever you do, don't fall into despair. Anyone involved with Abdul's campaign knows that deep down, it was a grassroots one. The movement doesn't stop with the election: neither should you. Use the connections you made during the campaign to empower each other and combine to collectively amplify our voices, but don't be afraid to go off on your own, either.
Don't think of Abdul's campaign as a loss. Think of it as a jumping off point for other political projects you can be involved in, now with much more experience and support.
Dream up and act on big goals and scalable ideas. Inspire, communicate, advocate, and organize. You'll be surprised (or maybe not after Abdul's campaign) with how much you can accomplish.