Far too many Americans idly sit by as the leaders of our government make major changes to our country, our foreign policy and our lives. It is simply not enough to scroll through Facebook to glean what’s going on in current political news. It is not enough to ignore politics entirely simply to avoid a headache from the chaos. As Americans, we need to make an effort stay informed and get involved.

 

Many people don’t actually know what President Donald Trump’s administration is up to. Mainstream media (aka popular posts on social media) focus on the juicy stories about the politics and the errors made, rather than what they’re actually doing to change our country.

Most people weren’t even aware Trump privately signed legislation on April 13 aimed at cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups that perform abortions. That man loves cameras and loves tweeting about everything he does, and it wasn’t a coincidence that this one was kept under the radar.

If the GOP wants to defund Planned Parenthood, they need to explain all their anti-life legislationIt is appalling the GOP wants to defund Planned Parenthood, an important women’s health care clinic that provides affordable reproductive care Read…

On March 28 Trump signed an executive order dismantling Obama’s climate change protections, which most people have yet to hear about. Congress and the president also recently lifted bans on hunting wolves and bears from planes.

Most people don’t hear about this news, because it’s not as widely reported as, say, Sean Spicer’s recent holocaust blunder. It is this kind of legislation that affects the country, but if people aren’t staying informed on these policies then the government is held less accountable to us, the people. 

What about local officials? It’s important to keep your lawmakers accountable for their constituents. Check out GovTrack.us, a website that allows you to see what your legislators actually do in Washington DC: what committees they sit on, where they align politically and what legislation they have voted for.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan holds town hall meetings with his constituents in Madison to keep them informed and involved. Just recently, he held a UW town meeting at Dejope Hall April 13 to talk with his constituents and hear their concerns. This is a great way to stay directly connected with your representatives and if you care about an issue, I highly suggest attending the next meeting.

Pocan talks global problems, local solutions at town hall meetingAs the federal government enacts changes domestically and abroad, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, hosted a town hall meeting Thursday for Dane Read…

Although it’s not always the best form of news, nearly two-thirds of American adults — 62 percent — get news from a social media site. If this includes you, you should at least make sure you’re reading reliable sources. Check the facts! Just because it’s written online, it does not make it true. Moreover, I encourage you to “like” your representative’s and senators’ social media sites. See what they’re up to and hear what they have to say directly from them (or their staff).

It is a sad reality that most Americans don’t keep informed on politics or even government for that matter. Only about 34 percent of Americans can even name the three branches of the federal government: executive, legislative and judicial. It doesn’t matter if you’re a political science major: government decisions will never not affect your life.

Being informed doesn’t mean that you need to subscribe to the New York Times and read every issue front to back. This simply means going out of your way, rather than relying on social media as a news source, to stay up to date with what’s going on in our country. Set up Apple News on your iPhone. Apple makes it so easy to access the news sources that spark your interest and recognizes which topics draw you in. The app sends alerts when breaking news happens or when an article is published that you may find interesting.

Voter turnout increases on campus, falls for stateVoter turnout for Tuesday’s presidential election increased by more than 2,000 people on the University of Wisconsin campus but the overall Read…

Download NPR One for news updates on the go, with short and sweet podcasts picked specifically for you, that are oh-so-easy to listen to on the walk to class. With around three minutes a podcast, the hosts deliver engaging stories ranging from underreported recent attacks across the world to the latest blunders from President Donald Trump’s administration.

Ask yourself, are you an informed voter? Take this PBS quiz and put your knowledge to the test. Whether you ace this quiz or fail miserably, I hope it acts as a reality check that some Americans truly have no idea what the state of our nation is. It is so important to stay informed and get involved.

Read more news articles. Listen to NPR podcasts. Stay up to date on what your legislators are doing in DC. But most importantly, just make an effort to know what’s going on. The American government is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people — this includes you.

Claudia Koechell ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in history and political science.