I get many comments when I publish commentary or post an opinion piece to a blog. It’s great to hear from readers, especially when they are validating fans who counter the crueler responses I’m now used to receiving. People write with thoughtful agreement and with shocking vitriol. But no one has asked me for help – until now.
Recently a reader wrote via my website after reading a column in which I made the case that we need to be vigilant and active in the unprecedented age of a tweeting president who seems not to grasp the gravity of his new position, or to understand that good governance requires not only in-depth knowledge of complex issues, but frequent briefings, good relations with Congress and the media, and more than 40 character communiques. It also includes trusting experienced advisers and proven experts.
The reader wanted to know how she “could make a difference” in the troubling times we are facing. I thought about her important question and then sent several suggestions. In a “thank you” email, she said, “You should make this a column.” So I thought more, did some research, and came up with these suggestions for resisting the dangerous recklessness that Mr. Trump continues to exhibit.
My first piece of advice is to check out the guide “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda,” written by volunteers, all of whom have worked as congressional staffers. (www.IndivisibleGuide.com) These people know what they’re talking about. They drew many of the lessons they share from the success of the Tea Party, when activists “took on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress.” They point out that the Tea Party came out of nowhere quickly, organized locally and then convinced their members of Congress to reject the Obama agenda. “Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism – and they won,” the authors of the guide note. They believe, rightly so I think (along with Bernie Sanders), that we need to build a similar grassroots resistance movement to defeat Mr. Trump’s dangerous agenda. And it’s already happening.
The Women’s March in Washington, DC is a great example. As I write this, at least 250,000 women and men are expected to be in the nation’s capital the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, to remind him and the Republican Congress that we refuse to go backwards when it comes to women’s rights, human rights, gay rights, voting rights, privacy, affordable health care, and more. The March wasn’t organized by large, notable organizations like NOW or NARAL Pro-Choice, or Planned Parenthood, all of whom will be in attendance. It was launched by a few women who felt they had to do something. So they put up a Facebook page inviting people to come to DC for the march, and the next morning found that 10,000 people had signed on. It grew from there and numerous cities across the country will be holding similar, simultaneous marches.
Here’s another example. In record time, activists all over shut down the Republican attempt to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. Phones on Capitol Hill rang off the hook, petitions flew, threats of being voted out of office abounded, and within two hours of announcing the changes the right wing wanted to establish, they had recanted. Pure people power!
Those accounts are meant to inspire. These ideas call for action.
Hold the media’s feet to the fire. When CNN, MSNBC or mainstream media don't cover an important issue with sufficient depth or urgency, or if they don’t insist on getting their questions answered specifically, call them on it. If they give too much time to the bad guys or normalize Mr. Trump's madness, call them – literally! As MSNBC host Chris Hayes has said, “The media is about to face a litmus test to see which reporters have the guts to scrutinize Trump, to expose his scandals, and to call out his lies for being lies…” He also suggests “posting their cowardice on Facebook.”
Write or call your Congresspeople, whether they are left or right. They listen to how constituents feel and they count calls to use numbers in their arguments on the floor. Remember, members of Congress want to get re-elected so they want their voters to like them! Also, localize your response to a particular piece of legislation. Remind them that Johnny (a real person) who lives in your town is likely to die if he is denied a medication or treatment. Tell them that you really don’t want to have to go to the press with the story. Indivisible advises that if you visit your Senator or Representative in DC or in their home office, prepare questions ahead of time, record and/or videotape the visit, and send a report to local media. If your Congressional representatives won’t see you, tell the press.
Write letters to newspaper editors specific to something that has broken in the news or is being proposed. Big or small issues, big or small papers. Use what is known as “creative epidemiology” in health communications: Instead of saying a million people will suffer, say how many jumbo jets those people would fill. Be sure to follow the paper’s guidelines.
Sign petitions – online or otherwise. They often make a difference, especially if they come from a large, respected group like MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood, or Human Rights Watch. Share them on social media. Also, speak up and out on issues that matter to you, whether with a friend or in appropriate gatherings. Be armed with facts, stay calm and polite! Then ask everyone you know to do the same!
“Protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting resistance to the Trump Agenda,” the Indivisible Guide says. “Together, we have the power to win [like the Tea Party did].” I would add that this is no time for complacency, no time to normalize our threatened future, no time to be too tired to act. It is time to resist.