Like most Americans, I counted down the weeks and days until Election Day. Sure, I was excited about the election of our first female president, just another barrier to be destroyed by the wave of progress our country has made in the last eight years. But selfishly, I was equally excited to be able to stop paying attention to politics. I couldn’t wait to stop obsessively checking Twitter for news and poll numbers, to stop expending emotional energy on the absurdity that spilled from the Trump campaign every day. I couldn’t wait to go back to thinking about holiday cards and arguing about college football rankings. I couldn’t wait to get back to spending my free time on frivolous things while progress rolled on all around me.
But then the unthinkable happened. And I, like many others, was rudely awakened: Progress is not, in fact, inevitable. After Obama’s election and reelection, the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, and the first female presidential nominee of a major party, I had unwittingly come to believe that progress would simply happen by inertia without me needing to do very much. Now I see how wrong I was; not only is progress completely avoidable, it can also be undone very quickly, as we can see from Trump’s staff and cabinet picks. For progress to happen and to last, all of us need to be actively working for it year-round, not just for a few months every four years.
Here is a list of things we can do for the next four years and all the years after that. As civilians, we may not be able to stop a Trump inauguration, but there’s a lot we can do to fight him and try to make life as safe and good as possible for those who stand to suffer under his administration. I hope we channel all of the grief and rage we’re feeling into action. As much as I would love to stop feeling terrible, I hope we never forget how the last few weeks have felt, as Hua Hsu wrote in his amazing New Yorker piece, so we never stop putting this kind of energy toward justice and progress. I hope that we seize this opportunity for all marginalized communities and their allies to unite. And I hope that the fruit of our grief is abundant.
- There are tons of organizations that need more support, either because they’ll have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks and years or because they risk losing funding under the next administration. Jezebel has an excellent list. A few that I would recommend:
- The ACLU has their work cut out for them, given how many of Trump’s campaign promises are unconstitutional. And given how little resistance he may face in a Republican-controlled Congress — and his ability to use executive orders when he does — the ACLU may be our only line of defense.
- The Southern Poverty Law Center fights hate crimes, which are up significantly since the election.
- Look up refugee services in your area. Many agencies are swamped at the moment with refugees attempting to gain asylum before the next administration begins. Give them money for application fees and postage — and all the other things that refugee families need once they’ve been resettled, which is everything — or time to help people fill out paperwork or learn English or set up their electricity.
- Subscribe to a good newspaper, either digitally or in hard copy. Yes, it stinks to have to pay for news that you used to be able to get for free. But good reporting is going to be more important than ever during this administration, and these institutions need all the support they can get, given how the president-elect has threatened them and is already trying to evade and discredit them. The Washington Post — DC’s major paper — is more than worthy of a subscription; their investigative reporting during the campaign, led by the Pultizer-worthy David Farenthold, was spectacular, and their coverage of the transition has been fantastic thus far. Not to mention that they’ll probably need to double the size of their investigative team to cover what’s shaping up to be a secretive, rule-bending administration. The New York Times also did solid work on the campaigns and is always a good choice; so is your local paper.
Gear up for 2018 and 2020
- All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for reelection in 2018. (This is one of the crazy things about the House — needing to get reelected every two years means that a disproportionate amount of each term is spent fundraising and campaigning.) Thirty-three Senate seats will also be up. Having Democrats control even one of these houses would significantly hamper Trump’s ability to push his agenda.
Even before the election — back when everyone predicted that Hillary would win and Democrats would reclaim the Senate majority — pundits were predicting that 2018 would be a tough year for the Democrats. Since Republicans held onto the Senate last week, it looks even tougher now. But then again, a week ago, those same pundits also thought that Trump had little chance of winning. So it may very well be that no one really knows anything about this new reality we live in, and this gives us all the more reason to start organizing now.
The so-called Obama coalition — people of color and young people, who carried him into office — are notoriously bad at showing up for mid-term elections. This is one of the major reasons why Republicans took control of the House in 2010 and added the Senate in 2014. We can all see now why that needs to change. We need to start participating in the midterms – not just voting, but donating, canvassing, making calls, all of that – with as much vigor as we do in presidential years. So if your Democrat senator or representative is up for reelection in 2018, start donating now. Start asking how you can volunteer now. Go to a meeting of your local Democrats. If you’re represented by a Republican, find out what Democrats are planning to challenge them and start donating and volunteering now. Capitalize on the anti-Trump sentiment now – both yours and your community’s – while it’s still burning hot.
And frankly, I don’t think that only Democrats should be involved in these efforts. If you’re an independent or a Republican who wants Trump to have some accountability and not just a rubber-stamp Congress, having Democrats control at least one chamber of Congress is in your best interest.
- The state-level elections of 2018 and 2020 — for governor, state senator, and state representative — will also be critical, because the officials elected then will oversee redistricting in their states using data from the 2020 census. In 2010, Republicans successfully invested tons of time in money into gubernatorial and state legislature races, and they used this power at the state level to gerrymander districts to the point where it’s hard for them to lose their majority in the House. Their success is one of the major reasons why Obama faced such opposition in Congress through most of his tenure. It’s an issue so significant that redistricting reform is the first and only thing that Obama has announced he’ll be involved in after his presidency.
States are redistricted after every census, and from what we’ve seen in the last 6 years, it is critical that Democrats have some say in how it’s done — or else Republicans will continue to manipulate it so they have an easier time keeping the House. So long story short: Invest at the state level too. If your Democrat governor, state senator, or state rep is up for reelection in 2018, donate. Volunteer. If there will be a Democratic primary, find out who’s running and invest in those campaigns.
- Check in with the Muslims/Jews/people of color/women who might be disturbed that a man who bragged about sexual assault is now the president-elect/LGBT folks in your life. It has been a harrowing few weeks. Ask them how they’re doing. If it feels weird for you to do that, know that this is one of those moments in American history when it’s appropriate to ask pretty much anyone that question, especially members of the aforementioned groups, who probably make up a majority of the population. No one will think you’re weird for asking that now. The only time I’ve cried in the last few weeks was after my first post-election conversation with a few white people who are very close to me — who did not once bring up the election, which has very tangible repercussions for me and my family. It’s already terrible to know that half the country doesn’t think you’re that important. It is all the more so when the people who actually know you fail to communicate otherwise.
- Start calling your representatives. Whenever Trump or someone on his team does something detestable, call your elected officials and tell them that you won’t stand for it and neither should they. For example, Trump named a racist anti-Semite, Steven Bannon, to be his senior advisor. Call your senator and representative to tell them that this is unacceptable and they should do everything in their power to pressure Trump to remove him. Trump also nominated Jeff Sessions, a senator from Alabama who was deemed too racist to be confirmed as a federal judge 30 years ago, to be Attorney General — the person in charge of protecting civil rights in this country. This is a position that requires confirmation by the Senate, so call your senators and tell them not to confirm him.
According to people who’ve worked for Congress, calling is the way to go, as is going to town hall meetings. Also, make sure you call your representative and not party leadership or reps from other areas; only your representative represents you. You also have the option of calling a specific committee; for example, last week, so many people called the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for a review of Trump’s finances and conflicts of interest that the lines were jammed. This is good. We need to do more of this.
- When an organization gives Trump a pass when they shouldn’t, say something. For example, last month, People magazine stood behind one of their reporters after she described how Trump sexually assaulted her. After the election, they did a 180 and put him on the cover as though he were a normal human being and not a sexual predator. Call them to complain. Tell them you won’t be buying their magazine anymore unless they change course. Another example: When Trump named Bannon his senior advisor, none of the major newspapers made that a headline. After getting enough feedback from the public, several of them changed their headlines. Email your newspaper if you see them normalizing or failing to address racism, hate speech, sexual assault, or other serious issues that need to be called out.
- Don’t let racist or sexist jokes pass in conversation without saying something. Yes, it can be a wet blanket on the conversation. But make it clear that racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism — all the things that drove Trump’s campaign — aren’t acceptable.
- If you see someone intimidating another person for being Muslim/female/Asian/Jewish/gay/what have you, SAY SOMETHING. Whether your style is more GTFO or low-key, do something to intervene. Communicate clearly that this behavior is unacceptable, especially if you are white. And when the assault is over, ask the victim how they’re doing and if they need anything. It’s risky for you to step in, sure, but not as risky as it is for the person actually being attacked.
- Talk to your Trump-supporting friends and relatives about the consequences of their vote. I recognize that this is deeply unpleasant and it would be easier just to not talk to those folks, about this subject or anything else, ever again. But I’m willing to wager that most of the Trumpers in your life didn’t vote for him because they wanted to intentionally oppress women, people of color, LGBT folks, etc; I think that many of them aren’t fully aware of the consequences of a Trump victory or don’t care enough. It’s your job to educate them. I can’t talk to your Trump-supporting uncle; I don’t know how to reach him. And even if I did, it would be easy for him to dismiss me as an angry minority or to brush me off because he doesn’t know me. But he has a relationship with you. He can’t write you off as an angry minority because he actually knows you and perhaps you aren’t a minority. These facts mean more coming from you than they do from me.
Besides, I already have to deal with racist garbage every day of my life — and explain to people why these things are racist and demeaning to me as a human being. So it would be dope if you could share some of that burden with me, especially with the people you already know.
And Thanksgiving is just a few days away, so you’ll have a prime opportunity to talk to your Trump-supporting uncle then. Ask why he supported him. Listen and affirm anything that’s worth affirming. (You don’t have to affirm racism, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, or homophobia.) Then you can share how this victory has made the country unsafe for a lot of people because of how it’s empowered racists, sexists, Islamophobes, etc. See where the conversation goes from there. Please don’t yell or be condescending or sarcastic. Listen, affirm, then share your piece. It’s important for me and others like me that he hear you. It might take some time for him to change his mind, so you don’t need to beat him into submission. But he does need to hear you.
Thanks in advance. You don’t necessarily deserve a cookie for doing the right thing, but safety for a lot of people in this country depends on conversations like these — so Trump voters see why his presidency is so dangerous and don’t vote for him or anyone like him again. So I will thank you in advance for having this conversation.
- Show up for people in your community who might be feeling threatened or unsafe, especially if you live in an area where they’re greatly outnumbered. Send a note to your local mosque or synagogue. Call to see if there’s anything you can do to help them. (Don’t be put off if the answer is no; the point is to communicate that you’re standing with them.) If they’re doing a public event, show up to support and even protect. These gestures may not seem like much, but they matter.
Hit the Trumps where it hurts them the most: their wallets. The #GrabYourWallet campaign has a list of companies that support or do business with the Trump family; they’ve already had success getting some to dump Trump products. Another campaign is here. If you have the ability to direct your whole organization away from doing business with them, do that. But this is a family that’s been known to use free water cups to steal lemonade from In-N-Out, so really, withholding any amount of money is worthwhile.
There have been protests all over the country since Election Day, and some have wondered what the point of these protests are. I don’t think anyone believes they’ll stop an inauguration, but they serve other important purposes:
- They communicate to people who are grieving — especially those who have been marginalized and stand to suffer under this administration — that they are supported and not alone. If Trump had won the election and everyone just quietly accepted it and went to bed, I would have felt abandoned and betrayed. In a time of despair, it was a great comfort to me to know that people all over the country were grieving and standing with me.
- They are ground zero for organizing, literally and figuratively. Protest is just the beginning; the emotion and the energy from these protests can then be funneled into specific action.
- They communicate a message not only to the federal government but also to local and state governments, as Sam Adler-Bell explained:
Protest is—among other things—about demonstrating to our city/state electeds the consequences if they cooperate with his agenda (2/2).
— Sam Adler-Bell (@SamAdlerBell) November 11, 2016
You’d be hard-pressed to think of a single instance of social change in our history — suffrage, civil rights, marriage equality — that didn’t start with protest. Protest may not stop the inauguration, but to say that it is pointless is to ignore almost all of history, American and otherwise.
Basically the online equivalent of a protest. So sign away.
- Listen. Take the time to hear the stories of people who are different from you, especially if you are privileged (white, male, straight, etc.) and haven’t had to hear these stories before. A few quick, helpful tips:
A- always center the impacted
L- listen & learn from those who live in the oppression
L- leverage your privilege
Y-yield the floor
— Kayla Reed (@RE_invent_ED) June 13, 2016
- Stay on top of the news, both so you can use your voice when it’s needed and so you can accurately counter incorrect information. Use that digital subscription to the Post or the Times you just bought. Also, make sure that you’re getting news from reliable outlets. Facebook is a cesspool of fake news that people both inside and outside the company think may have impacted the election. If you rely on social media for news, use Twitter instead. Follow reputable news outlets and journalists and you’ll have quality, up-to-the-minute journalism right on your phone.
Twitter is also an excellent place to find ways to act. The hashtag #smallacts, curated by author Celeste Ng, is a motivating and inspiring list of things people are doing to help in their everyday lives. Twitter is where I learned that Derek Nelson started a weekly newsletter with “a few concrete things you can do to take action during the Trump presidency.” Facebook is good for distraction (babies!) and despair (my friends’ relatives don’t understand how government works!); Twitter is good for staying in the know and actually doing something.
- Learn our history. A Trump presidency didn’t come out of nowhere; decades of legislation and significant events brought us here, and much of it wasn’t covered in our history classes. (If yours were anything like mine, you spent too long on the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and all of a sudden it was May and you had less than a month to cover the ’50s to the present.) A few must-reads:
- “The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic, June 2014)
- The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
- Just Mercy, by Bryan Stephenson
- A few other good lists are here and here.
- If I might be so bold, you can find a quick 20-minute history of race in America here; it goes from 22:14 to 42:13.
Teach your children
Not only do your conversations impact how they engage with others now, but they can also lay the groundwork for a generation that won’t elect someone like Trump 20 years from now.
- Talk to them about why we love everyone. Talk to them about using your privilege on behalf of those who don’t have it. And be specific; talk to them about racism, sexism, Islamophobia, etc. We’ve seen all kinds of horrible hate speech happening at K-12 schools in the past week, even in places known for being liberal, and I have a hard time believing that all of these kids are from homes where hateful language was spewed. I imagine that some of them just went along with the crowd because no one had ever told them why they shouldn’t participate in these activities.
- Research tells us that reading fiction expands our capacity for empathy, because it puts us into the mind of another person. Thus, reading books with a wide range of protagonists is critical to helping us empathize with those who are different from us; this is all the more true if you live in an area that isn’t particularly diverse. So read books with diverse protagonists with your kids. Watch movies and TV shows with diverse protagonists. Get your kids used to empathizing with characters who don’t look like them, because it’ll make it easier for them to empathize with people in real life who don’t look like them.
- Teach your sons about consent. Teach them that it’s never okay to touch anyone anywhere without their permission. Teach this early. (Yes, of course, teach your daughters too. But for real, teach your sons.) Teach your daughters that their bodies belong to them and no one is allowed to touch them without their permission. (Yes, of course, teach your sons too. But for real, teach your daughters.)
- Teach your kids about climate change. Teach them what it looks like to be a good steward of the limited resources we have.
- Include your kids as you do any of the other things on this list. Take them canvassing with you. When you assemble furniture for a refugee family, bring them along. Show them that civic engagement is a normal part of life.
Get a group together
- To do any of the above. Because it’s way more fun to phone bank over pizza with friends than by yourself, and you’ll probably get more out of a book if you get the chance to discuss it with other people.
- To talk about what you’re going to do, share ideas, and keep each other accountable.
- To take on a project you couldn’t do alone. Support a refugee family. Host a meet-and-greet or a town hall meeting for people running for office. You can do way more collectively than you can individually.
Do something radical
- Register as Muslim. Trump is reportedly thinking about making good on his campaign promise of a registry of immigrants from Muslim countries; last week, one of his surrogates cited the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II as precedent. It is difficult to overstate how alarming this is. Should this come to pass, consider registering to stand in solidarity with these oppressed folks — and to throw a wrench in the plans of the people trying to keep track of Muslims. Is it risky? Potentially. Is it the right thing to do? Absolutely.
- Run for office. Seriously. Think about it, at least. And if you decide it’s not for you, support organizations like She Should Run that encourage underrepresented people to run for office.
- If you live in a predominantly liberal area and you’re open to a move, think about moving to a swing state where 1. your vote literally matters more and 2. your energy could make more of an impact.
Leaving California or New York would be hard, sure. But the great thing about swing states is that they usually have liberal bastions — that’s what makes them swing states. So you could move to Madison or Asheville or Boulder and still find like-minded people and get third-wave coffee and artisan donuts — AND have your vote count more and get the chance to impact important elections. Plus, the cost of living is way lower in these places and the people are often really friendly. (In the New York Times, Alec McGinnis argued that you should move to a conservative part of a swing state or a conservative state, period. This is an even more ballsy move, but I recognize that it’s a really big ask.)
About those safety pins. I personally don’t care whether or not you wear one. I can see how it could be comforting, if I lived in an especially pro-Trump area, to be able to see that someone was on my side. I have a problem with the pins when people think that wearing one is all they need to do. If you’re wearing a safety pin and not doing anything else to help marginalized people, then all you’re doing is saying “Not guilty! I’m not to blame for this presidency!” And the only person that helps, really, is you. So wear the pin or not, but more importantly, do something that tangibly helps, whether that’s something on this list or not.
I also have a problem with the pins when people try to profit off of them. It should go without saying, but give your money to the people who actually need it.
Photo credit: The New Yorker