In the wake of Trump many people are left feeling an odd combination of powerlessness and inspiration. There are a number of lists intended to answer the question “What can I do now?” (see John Oliver, the Guardian, Elle, Daily Kos, this invaluable piece from a Yale history professor, and Huff Post). Here is the Vim’s take on the question.
This list is meant for those already deeply concerned about Trump. If you are merely skeptical of Trump, consider starting with 3 and 4 (and watching this).
1. Admit to yourself that you cannot fix everything.
I know you desperately want to believe that the right mixture of donations, protest, and online activism will somehow trigger a cosmic safety-valve causing Trump to disappear from the universe. But keep in mind, you were frequently grateful that the birthers and Ted Cruzes of the world couldn’t tear down the government with their own mixtures. The stability of our democracy is a blessing when those you support are in power and a curse when someone like Trump is in power. So, for your psychological well-being, train yourself to be at peace with the fact that you are limited in what you can do. The limitation is in fact a good aspect of our political system.
You can only do what a single person is capable of doing.
It feels tautological and empty, but by truly grasping its meaning you can focus on more practical ways to stop what is going wrong (and find fulfillment in doing them).
2. Remind yourself that all of this is bad. Yes, that bad.
As negative as it might seem, you must remind yourself of how terrible Trump is. Do not allow yourself to forget how cruel, small, and petulant of a person he is. Think about the pussy-grabber video. Think about him mocking Serge Kovaleski. Think about his conflicts of interest or his consistent admiration of Putin. Work to overcome normalcy bias. Doing so will keep you focused and motivated. It will help you resist complacency. And it will reaffirm the existence of facts.
There is no doubt, however, that 1 and 2 make a difficult tandem. But you need to make it work. Be disciplined and determined in your thought-life. Understanding the problems you face and understanding your role in facing them is the absolute foundation of any resistance.
3. Pay for quality journalism.
We desperately need good media, now more than ever. Think critically about what makes good and bad media (here are a few thoughts on the issue). Spend money on the good media. Consider a subscription to the New York Times or Washington Post. Donate to your local NPR station. Call out fake news when you see it. Constantly remind yourself that there are facts.
On a related point, start paying attention to outlets you disagree with. Subscribe to podcasts you wouldn’t normally listen to (consider Ben Shapiro, Glenn Beck, and perhaps Sam Harris). Think about the strongest versions of conservative arguments. Avoid ‘partisan porn’, which can be recognized by its effects: haughty laughter directed at ‘idiots.’ Consider also that conservatives and liberals should be united in their resistance to Trump. Trump might, unwittingly, unite the country after all! Be a part of that process.
4. Educate yourself.
Besides tracking the news, read history and philosophy especially. Here are some quality reading lists for the Trump era:
Here are the Vim’s recommendations:
- The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt
- “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr.
- Plato’s Republic (especially book 9)
- Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt
- Hillbilly Elegy
- Islam and the Future of Tolerance
5. Start an action group.
You are not alone. Meet with friends regularly to discuss news and ways to get involved. Build a community around political action. Start by reaching out to a few friends. Make plans to meet. After venting, focus on ways to act (and take notes during the meeting). Read this and other lists together. Hold each other accountable. Work on expanding your group. For help, utilize the Action Group Network.
6. Engage with Trump supporters.
Read the Guide For Talking to Trump Supporters carefully and share it with others. It is absolutely crucial that we engage with people who disagree with us. Be a model of thoughtful and reasonable engagement. Bring up politics often and tactfully. Involve a diversity of opinions in your action group. Make a pact to engage with Trump supporters and report to each other about how the conversations go.
Note: if you’re a white person, this burden largely falls on you. Trump won on a platform of white populism. Trump is here because of white people. Own it, admit it, and fix it. There are many resources in the Guide.
7. Get involved with a local organization.
Pick a neglected issue, find a local organization, and get involved. Consider an environmental organization. Look into carbon offsets. Contact local anti-racist organizations and take part in training (SURJ, AWARE, CrossRoads). Explore volunteer.gov. Reach out to community members for advice—express your interest with a Facebook post. The more involved you become the more resources you will find.
8. Donate more and donate wisely.
Everyone wants to be on the front lines of charity work, but that might not be the most effective use of your energy. When charities are asked about what they need, they invariably say “cash.” They probably don’t need you quitting your job and clogging their offices with your lack of experience. It might be best for you to stay in your job and donate more money. Read more about these ideas here and here (or simply Google “effective altruism”).
This is your two step process:
- Find the most effective charities
- Figure out the best way to help them (which is probably to donate more)
Here are some suggestions:
- The International Refugee Assistance Project
- Center for Reproductive Rights
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- The Trevor Project
- Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
- Here and here are lists with more. Support neglected charities first.
9. Speak out when you see hateful behavior in public.
With the spike in hate crimes and the stream of viral videos depicting loud and public bigotry, there is no doubt that the darker segments of America have felt empowered by Trump. If you see hateful behavior in public, say and do something. Call it out. Act. But be careful. This does not mean fighting or yelling. Be kind yet firm first. Here is a guide.
10. Run for office or find a local politician you believe in.
This is big, but it is something you can do. Local governments do have power. Think long and hard about how committed you are to standing up for justice. An excellent way to do it is through running for office. Even losing can have a positive impact (think about Bernie). If you cannot see yourself running, advocate for a candidate (or several) you believe in. Donate money and time. Canvass, register people to vote, and promote them in conversation and on social media. Start now.
11. Call elected officials.
You need to read this first. Calling makes more of a difference than tweeting or writing letters or emails. Commit to making two calls a week, one at the state level and one at the national. Be kind yet firm. Write out what you want to say. Spread the message to others in your action group. Find your elected officials here and more info here.
12. Sign petitions.
It is small, but it is something. Change.org and MoveOn are always changing and moving. Sign up for emails and read them. Occasionally they will contain information helpful to starting an action group or joining a local organization.
13. Move to (or stay in) a swing state.
A red state would be good too. Find the proportion of population to electoral votes here and vote in a place that is above 100% of the national average. Everything ultimately comes down to voting. If you want your vote to be more impactful, don’t live in California or New York. The Electoral College is not going away, so your candidates need to figure out how to win within that system.
And do not give up. Ever.