As soon as he took office, the president’s administration worked rapidly to implement the dark promises that had been made on the campaign trail. This left progressives feeling shocked, disoriented, and anxious. As radio host Peter Sagal tweeted, “It’s gotten to the point where if there’s no astounding new fiasco at the top of my feed, I assume Twitter is down.”
In a YouTube entry, psychologist Glenda Russell offers advice about how we can use the election as a springboard to activism. “During most of the recent U.S. history, oppression has been waged on different groups, one group at a time. This makes organizing really difficult, “she explains. “Now, many groups are being attacked simultaneously. The potential for mass mobilization and coalition building is greater than it has ever been in my lifetime” (youtube.com/watch?v=cRnb8JVyveU&feature=youtu.be).
In the months surrounding the inauguration, online tools have been developed to guide regular citizens in their efforts to counter the negative effects of the administration. In January 2017, law student Adi ti Juneja and activist Samuel Sinyangwe launched The Resistance Manual (resistancemanual.org/Resistance_Manual_Home), an open source guide featuring verifiable and actionable information that can be used by people new to activism. In an article by Lakshmi Gandhi, Juneja is quoted as saying, “The idea is that there are good briefings on the issues in each section so people can use it to inform themselves. And then if you scroll down there are pages for different states so you can see what your state is doing and then see links to crisis resources and tools of resistance” (“This Law Student Built the Framework for a Trump ‘Resistance Manual,’” NBCNews.com, Jan. 19, 2017; nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/law-student-built-framework-trump-resistance-manual-n709166). The Guide offers information and news about 15 progressive policies, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), reproductive justice, and the Muslim ban. Content is contributed by users and then vetted by the editors. The Resistance Manual is an excellent first stop in the fight against the policies of the current regime, which, as we remember, lost the popular vote by almost 3 million.
Meet Your Representatives
One month after the inauguration, Congress had its first week-long recess. During this break, members of Congress return to their districts and often hold “town halls,” where they can speak to their constituents face-to-face. By this time, Republicans in Congress had publicized their plans to “repeal and replace” the ACA, aka Obamacare, which provides health insurance coverage to more than 20 million Americans who can’t get insurance through an employer.
Frightened and angry constituents thronged to Republican town halls to tell their stories directly to their representatives. In Springdale, Ark., a woman stood in a crowded hall to address Senator Tom Cotton. “My husband [is ill] with dementia, Alzheimer’s, plus multiple other things, and you want to stand there, with him at home, expect us to be calm, cool, collected. What kind of insurance do you have?” (nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/congresspeople-are-getting-pummeled-in-town-halls.html).
When word got out about the size and passion of these crowds, more than 200 Republican lawmakers canceled their town halls. In some cases, voters gathered anyway to share their concerns with cardboard replicas of their representatives.
Many of the attendees were inspired by the Indivisible Guide: The Practical Guide for Resisting Trump’s Agenda (indivisibleguide.com). Founded by former congressional staff ers Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg in late November 2016, the Guide outlines the successful 2009 strategies of the Tea Party, including organizing small, local groups to confront representatives and taking a purely defensive posture. As for mer congressional staffer and Guide board member Sarah Dohl explains, “There was this overwhelming cry from different groups of people about not knowing what steps to take in order to fight [post-election]. We thought we could help” (Doug Criss, “Indivisible Hopes to Be Tea Party’s Flip Side,” CNN, Feb. 11, 2017; cnn.com/2017/02/11/politics/indivisible-profile-trnd/index.html). Thirty days after the president took office, the Guide counted at least two Indivisible groups in every congressional district in the nation.
A second tool to locate opportunities for face-to-face meet ings with Congress members is the Town Hall Project (townhallproject.com), an open source, volunteer-run site that lets users enter their ZIP codes to find local events.
Call Your Representatives
Another way to let your representatives know how you feel about issues is to call them on the phone. The volunteer-run site 5 Calls (5calls.org) offers background reports on progressive issues and scripts to use when speaking to congressional staffers. 5 Calls offers free apps for Android and iPhone to make daily Congress-calling even easier.
The 65 (thesixtyfive.org) is named for the 65% of voters who did not vote for the current president. This site provides senators’ phone numbers and also scripts for progressive talking points.
Use Your Pocketbook
Since the election, progressive nonprofit organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have seen a tremendous surge of donations. Also, alarmed progressives have suddenly started subscribeing to newspapers such as The New York Times and Washington Post.
#grabyourwallet (grabyourwallet.org) lists re tailers that carry products affiliated with the first family with the aim of inspiring a boycott of these stores until they agree to stop selling the family’s merchandise. In response, Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus, and others have dropped or deemphasized the fashion lines of the president’s daughter. The stores did not admit that the ban influenced them. Instead, they cited slumping sales of the president’s family brands.
Run for Office
One outcome of the elections is that it has made clear the need for more progressives to actually run for political office. The National Democratic Training Committee (traindemocrats.org) offers free campaign training for liberals, as does Wellstone (wellstone.org/events).
Run for Something (runforsomething.net) formed after the Women’s March to encourage liberals younger than 35 to begin their political lives. Emily’s List recruits and trains female candidates (emilyslist.org/pages/entry/run-for-office). The Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute (victoryinstitute.org/candidate-campaign-training) trains LGBT candidates specifical ly; The New American Leaders Project (newamericanleaders.org/programs_training.html) is aimed at candidates from immigrant communities.
History Has Its Eyes on Us
If there is a silver lining to this “moment of continued emergency,” as New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik has named life under the new administration, it may be that it has inspired Americans to engage with our government. It is up to us to or ganize and take action against the autocratic activities of our current federal establishment. We have the power to rise up and #resist.