American identity is by nature political, and involving yourself in issues that matter isn’t always easy. So what does a civic life actually look like? Here are four concrete ways to become more civically engaged in the new year.

It’s all too easy to prioritize national politics and miss what’s going on in your town or district.  How many of us have just voted along party lines because we didn’t know who the candidates were for attorney general or county executive? Tangible change starts at the local level — so familiarize yourself with everyone from your governor to your local school board members. Learn their policy platforms and what they stand for.

Better yet, run for office yourself. 2017 was a year of historic first-time officeholders. Virginia elected its first transgender state lawmaker and Montana elected its first black mayor in Helena (who came to the US as a refugee in the 1990s). And plenty of state and local races could use some competition. According to the Associated Press, 42 percent of state representative elections last fall had no major opposition candidates. The number of people living in districts without real electoral choices is on the rise. You can change that by taking civic involvement to the next level and running yourself…

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