The other weekend, my wife and daughter went to DC to join in the march against Trump's views and policies towards women. It was a great moment, but without sustained action, it's not likely to change much.
My wife asked what people concerned about Trump should keep doing beyond marching.
Here's my answer:
- Harass your legislators. Trump can enact some policies via Executive Order but, as bad as the refugee order is, most of the really big stuff requires legislation. The more your representatives in Washington (especially if they're not liberal Democrats who reflexively oppose anything Trump wants) hear from you, the more they'll hesitate to go along with what Trump wants.
- Keep your other elected officials accountable too. While your State Rep or State Senator can't do much about Trump, your Governor has a platform and the ability to counter federal policies with state alternatives. Your Mayor may too. Call them, email them, tweet at them. The more they're forcefully resisting Trump's policies, the harder it is for Trump to implement them.
- Don't forget about the cabinet. Most people don't like being unpopular. So if a federal agency is considering a law or policy you disagree with (whether on immigration, labor, housing, health care or anything else), let them know too. The more they hear, the more it'll influence their thinking (especially if your tone is reasonable and the content thoughtful). And because most people only reach out to elected officials, your voice has a better chance of being heard when you contact appointees instead.
- Litigation is an important weapon. As much as it pains me to praise the ACLU, they took decisive action last weekend to block some of the Executive Orders on detainees and refugees and had some real success. State Attorneys General and other advocacy groups frequently have standing to try to block or overturn federal policies. Pressure the Attorney General in your state to act and donate to advocacy groups who are pursuing legal action.
- Tweet at Trump. It doesn't always have to be critical. He wants attention more than anything else and finding areas where you do agree (and saying so) then makes your views on other issues more important to him (all negative reinforcement, all of the time, never works). Try something like "GREAT idea sending federal agents to help fight gangs in Chicago. Now let's take the guns away from criminals too."
- Not everything you do has to be about Trump. A lot of local programs are going to see funding cuts as federal funding shifts to block grants to states (which is a way to cut funding for the poor while appearing to merely empower local officials). Giving them your time and money (food banks, health clinics, immigration service organizations) is more important than ever.
- All politics and all governments matter. Even if you think you're civically engaged, odds are, you're not. Most of you don't vote in municipal primaries, county elections, and state legislative elections. Low turnout tends to favor ideologues on both sides who do bother to vote in primaries. As a result, our politics - across the country - are polarized and dysfunctional and nothing gets done. Corrupt and inept government should be protested at all levels. The more you participate, the more moderate our politics become and the more things can actually happen.
Based on the first few days, the next four years will be very tumultuous and for many people, very scary. One way or another, we'll survive. But if enough people take the steps above, we don't have to just hope for survival.
We can start giving our democracy the attention it deserves and that can make us a better country for decades to come.