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Party politics: How to become an active citizen in F-M

FARGO - History paints those who are involved in political organizations as either deeply entrenched or slightly aloof. More often, however, those who are involved in their chosen party's efforts started by dipping their toes in local organizatio...

For a relatively small metro area, Fargo has a variety of active political organizations. Illustration by April Knutson and Justin Benson / Special to The Forum.
For a relatively small metro area, Fargo has a variety of active political organizations. Illustration by April Knutson and Justin Benson / Special to The Forum.

FARGO - History paints those who are involved in political organizations as either deeply entrenched or slightly aloof. More often, however, those who are involved in their chosen party's efforts started by dipping their toes in local organizations.

At first, they took small steps first to find out about how to be active citizens. Recently, current events have spurred left, right, moderate, far-left and far-right to action. Some locals learned about organizations that fit their worldview before they chose to support it.

"I considered myself well-informed before the last couple of months, but I really only started getting more interested in becoming more involved in a political party during the last six months," says Lydia Tackett, vice chair of District 44 Democrats.

Tackett's interest was piqued after seeing events and her social media feed covering various marches and gatherings.

"At some point I felt like I was a spending a lot of time reading stuff online, and it was starting to bum me out," she says. "I thought, 'If I'm going to spend all this time reading about these issues than I should probably do something about them.' "

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Surprisingly, Tackett found that she could trade the time she had spent reading to make a real impact by attending local events.

"I just started going to a march here or a fundraiser there and began to meet really great people," she says.

By attending these events and building her network, Tackett found even more events and initiatives she could support.

"What probably kept me from doing it before and what started me off slowly was my worry about my regular job," she says.

At first, Tackett felt nervous that getting involved in local action would take an enormous amount of time and interfere with her day job.

"In actuality, I can work it into my schedule without taking up very much of my regular day, and it doesn't tire me out very much," she says. "It is something I can do with my time to make me feel good."

One young Republican

Chris Langerud found a way to work in his involvement with the Republican party at a young age. More than 8 years ago, Langerud started attending various Republican party gatherings. Eager to get involved and meet like-minded people, he began volunteering at events.

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"At first, I just helped out with parking cars at fundraisers and stuff like that," Langerud says. "I would then attend the event in between my volunteer tasks."

He remembers an event where he met former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and another one when he saw Sen. John McCain. Although meeting nationally-known politicians is not the norm, Langerud still found the everyday politics of local elections exciting.

Eventually, Langerud and some of his friends started the Cass County Young Republicans to encourage young people like themselves to take a more active role in the local GOP.

"It's important to get involved in any local political organization and find out the rules that we live by," Langerud says. "If you don't agree with them there's no better way to try to change them than by being involved in a local party."

A new 'democratic socialist'
Dana Bisignani, who has identified as a socialist since she was 16 years old, now acts as spokesperson for the Red River Valley Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (RRDSA). As a passionate 39-year-old woman, Bisignani contributes to the collective group.

"I have always been interested in fighting for the equality and well-being of everyone in my community," she says. "I wanted everyone to have access to resources like education, health care and basic rights."

Bisignani wasn't involved with the idea of "democratic socialism" until a few months ago. In fact, she wasn't aware of the idea of democratic socialism until Senator Bernie Sanders campaigned for president in 2016.

Bisignani describes "democratic socialism" as a bit farther left than the current Democrat party but she says it's still a pretty big tent organization.

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"We really want to protect good for all. We want everyone to have access and equal civil rights," Bisignani says. "Many of us are tired of seeing public goods like education, our highway system or health care being privatized because many of us lose out."

In simple terms, Bisignani describes it as working together for the collective good.

"It's like the difference between joining a credit union versus investing in a big bank," Bisignani says.

Bisignani felt comfortable to join the RRDSA chapter having been familiar with its local chapter founders as it only emerged in early spring of this year.

"For me, these people seem concerned about many of the same issues that I am concerned about," Bisignani says. "They are people that - like me - felt like the choices we are given with our current political parties just weren't good enough."

Bisignani also notes people on both the left and the right sometimes feel that their elected officials aren't listening.

"Increasingly people are going out into their communities trying to find like-minded individuals either say, 'Okay, how do we solve this problem ourselves?' or 'How do we get our elected officials to listen to us?' " Bisignani says.

 

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Related Topics: CASS COUNTY
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