Heading into the 2018 midterm elections, it’s easy to be pessimistic about the state of politics in this country. Eleven people were slaughtered in their house of worship by a bigot. Mail bombs were sent to political opponents of the president. Migrants seeking a better life are branded as terrorists. The cost of living in this country is rapidly rising while wages remain stagnant and leading scientists agree that time is running out to save the human race from the catastrophic consequences of man-made climate change.

It’s clear that we’re living through a turbulent and pivotal moment in history.

But through these dark clouds shines a ray of hope.

The public at-large has begun to embrace progressive positions. The Pew Research Center has found that millennials are significantly more likely to identify as liberal Democrats than their parents. A Gallup poll from 2017 found that 63 percent of Americans believe the rich don’t pay enough in taxes and 67 percent said the same of corporations. A survey from Reuters found that Medicare for All, once considered a leftist daydream, is now supported by 70 percent of the American people while only 20 percent of people are outright opposed to it. This has lead to some bizarre and desperate rhetorical lines from conservative policy makers, like Paul Ryan’s claim that Medicare for All would “destroy and obliterate Medicare as we know it” when the policy, by definition, in fact expands the scope of the popular program.

These shifts in public opinion are the logical conclusion of an informed electorate. Nobody thinks it’s fair that there’s a small group of people with more money than they could ever dream of spending, while 40 million others live in poverty, and the reasonable, common sense response is to do something about it.

To achieve our equality and justice-based ambitions, we’ll have to put in the work. Building a fairer, more progressive society will mean taking on powerful factions determined to preserve the status quo.

But this doesn’t mean we’re doomed. It means we’ll have to fight that much harder. We’ll have to make politics a part of our lives. We’ll have to engage with our friends, family members, neighbors and fellow citizens who don’t vote. We’ll have to persuade people who have been crushed and disillusioned by an unfair political and economic world that a better future is possible, and we can start right here in Butler County.

Rebecca Howard, running for State Representative right here in the 53rd district, has run on a platform of combating poverty, strengthening public education and guaranteeing healthcare as a human right. Vanessa Enoch, running for the U.S. House of Representatives in this district, is calling for common sense gun control and an end to the mass incarceration that has ruined the lives of countless non-violent drug offenders. By getting visionaries like Howard and Enoch elected, we can begin to rebuild our government in a way that works for all people, not just a small handful of billionaires.

That being said, it’s important to remember that political participation doesn’t start and end at the ballot box.

Elections like the one on Nov. 6 are a great way to start the process, but we also have to be the change we want to see in the world. That means going to protests against racism and sexual violence. That means paying attention to what your representatives in government are doing and letting them know what you think about it. That means volunteering and community service. We have the will and we know the way, all that’s left now is to do the damn thing.

It’s apparent to everyone that we’re at a crossroads, and it’s easy to be cynical. But the thing about being at a crossroads is that there is potential to take things in another direction. We can reject the hatred and injustice that has defined the last two years. We can fight to improve the lives of all people. A better future is possible, and we will be the ones to make it happen.