Political groups are more than just social activism

I regularly attend political meetings, but it wasn’t until now that I realized I view these functions as social events.

Recently, I was invited to attend the local chapter of the Youth Democrat’s for a bowling party. It was a fun, casual little shindig with surprisingly good pizza.

Despite being a kickoff event for a political group, I barely heard anyone say a word about politics. Instead, I caught up with old friends from the campaign trail and met some of the younger democrats.

It made me realize there was a contradiction between the idealized version of political involvement I had in my mind and reality.

For many Americans, the word politics conjures images of passionate groups of people fighting for what they believe is right. An inspirational execution of the First Amendment, and that was what I always pictured until I actually became involved.

Although I agreed with the beliefs heralded at the meetings and rallies I attended, that wasn’t what kept me coming back to them. It was the people.

I agreed with the messages, but I looked forward to spending time with fellow Democrats more than I did the actual door-knocking or marching.

These friendships came so easily because everyone already had something in common. In this way, political involvement works like any club or sports team.

Like a sports team, the presence of an opponent (or opposing views, in our case) creates a sense of camaraderie. That’s why everyone gets so pumped up about the election: it’s the political geek’s version of the Super Bowl.

Unlike a sports team, not everything political groups do revolve around one activity. A decent number of “meetings” don’t involve the discussion of politics. They are functionally social gatherings.

I have been to plenty of events thrown by a few different groups, and although they mention their candidate or their policy, most of the time is spent simply meeting other people.

As a somewhat shy person who does not live on campus, politics provided me the single best opportunity to make acquaintances and friends.

And, as an added bonus you already know your new friends share values with you. There won’t be the awkward realization three years into a friendship that you and a friend have wildly different views on a given topic.

Being aware of a person’s values and positions on controversial issues allows you to have a more accurate picture of them off the bat.

On the other hand, people regularly involved in politics are used to discussing controversies, so having different opinions with your friend wouldn’t be so uncomfortable.

It’s not that local political groups don’t get anything done for campaigns or for their party. They’re great at spreading awareness, and for giving updates about larger events.

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