I am so sure I am not the only American citizen who watches the news these days in utter disbelief. Currently the Republican Party is mortgaging the future of all Americans by showing an absolute disregard for “real” American values. The tax bill that is being ushered through Congress in the dead of night and backroom deals will ultimately destroy the social safety net and drive up the deficit by more than $1 trillion. It is hard to say what the future of American democracy will be, but it is apparent that many of the elected officials currently holding office have been coasting on name recognition, incumbency advantages and the generous donations from the wealthy few who have a vested interest in maintaining their economic superiority over most of the American population. As inequality continues to deepen, we must become more active and vote out the individuals who are contributing to the weakening of American democracy and an equitable future.

Many people reading this paper likely live in Democratic districts. However, it is important to follow the voting patterns of all of your elected officials. That is, electeds on the local, state and congressional levels. Far too many elected officials appear every two to four years to ask for your vote and give a brief summary of what they’ve accomplished. Unfortunately, far too many inspiring candidates face an uphill battle when trying to run because they lack the donor base and name recognition. We must take a far greater interest in who is representing our interests at City Hall, in Albany and in Washington, D.C. How many of us know how our various elected officials voted for various bills over the past six months?

Next year, the entire House of Representatives will be up for re-election and one-third of the U.S. Senate. That means all 435 representatives are up for re-election and 33 senators. Roughly 90 percent of districts in the U.S. are incredibly “safe” districts; that is, incumbents will easily win re-election and likely not have a significant challenger in the general election. Therefore, paying attention to the elections on Nov. 6, 2018, is likely too late. It is imperative we pay attention to the primary elections in our various states—those elections are likely where the diversity between candidates will exist. The general election is often too late to make a real and substantive change.

If you are interested in learning more about your particular state’s primary election dates, go to the National Conference of State Legislatures (for statehouse primaries) and the Federal Election Commission (for congressional primaries) for more information. As the past few weeks and months have shown us, it is imperative we begin to take a more active role in our representation to combat the status quo. The right to vote was hard earned, let us not be the generation that squanders it.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is the 2018 NYU McSilver Institute Fellow and an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.