Election 2018: How You Talk to Candidates Matters

June 5, 2018

In some ways, 2018 is similar to other mid-term election years. All 435 seats in the U.S. House are contested. One-third of all Senate seats and 39 governorships will be decided, as well as numerous state and local offices. Candidates are already out in force, telling voters where they stand and listening at town halls and in other public forums.

Yet this first national election since President Trump’s inauguration feels different. Frustration and anger with the administration and Congress are spurring more people to run for office. More women overall, and women of color and immigrants in particular, are seeking public office. People feel a sense of urgency to get off the sidelines and are active as candidates, campaign volunteers, and advocates.

Even when you disagree with a candidate, engaging in a civil dialogue can leave the door open for future conversation.

Many people are invested in the election’s outcome and are closely following it. Will the results vindicate the Trump administration’s agenda or repudiate it? Will Republicans keep majorities in the House and Senate, or will Democrats gain more ability to advance and block legislation? How will changes in state legislatures affect national politics?

For FCNL, this election season is important for these reasons as well as another: it lays the groundwork for the next two years of advocacy for peace and justice.

FCNL is a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse particular candidates or parties. We encourage everyone to vote according to their conscience. Just as importantly, we encourage you to use this election year to talk to candidates, ask them questions, and influence their agendas.

What candidates hear on the campaign trail influences the actions they are willing to take once elected. We want to make sure they hear from you.

This newsletter is your how-to guide for engaging with candidates this year. We provide sample questions you can ask at a town hall meeting, adapt into a letter to the editor, or email to candidates using FCNL’s website: fcnl.org/2018elections. We offer ideas for engaging your meeting, church, or community group to raise issues that matter to you.

Asking questions starts or continues building a relationship with the people who want to represent you. The tone in which you ask your question and the respect with which you listen to the response make a difference in whether the candidate sees you as an adversary or a someone also seeking solutions to our country’s problems. Even when you disagree with the candidate’s perspective, engaging in a civil exchange, one person to another, can leave the door open for future conversation and transformation.

Many of you are already involved in this election, as volunteers and in efforts to increase voter registration and turnout. These are also ways of shaping our government for the coming years.

This election is important—and it’s also just one point in the process of political change. Changing U.S. policies to advance the world we seek takes persistence and focus, before, during, and after an election. It takes an ability to adapt to changing circumstances, paired with a clarity of purpose and principle—a sense of what can and can’t be compromised. Engaging with candidates now helps put issues on their radar and also gives you an opening to follow up after Election Day, once successful candidates have turned to the business of governing.

The challenges facing our country won’t be solved by one election— but the way you take part in our democracy during the election makes a difference in how solvable those problems will be.