What to do?

posted Nov 12, 2016, 10:32 AM by Daniel Laurison   [ updated Nov 13, 2016, 9:02 AM ]

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and work as hard as you can to make the worst impossible and the best happen.  Re: the best, see this article, giving a lot of plausible reasons why Trump will not be able to do the vast majority of awful things he’s promised.  But re: the worst, some of the worst seems to be happening now in all kinds of one-on-one interactions, as well as in the celebration of white supremacist groups, and people are legitimately scared. And if there’s even a 1% chance that Trump will manage to take our country back to the days of Jim Crow or worse, that this is the end of democracy in America, that he will make good on all his racist, anti-semitic, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-queer, anti-Muslim (and more) rhetoric, we can’t let our hopes or faith in our democratic institutions or our fellow Americans make us complacent, especially if we’re not members of targeted groups.

On to working for the best, I think the first step there is for us all to try really, really hard not to blame Trump’s electoral victory on our erstwhile allies.  All of the following are at least partly true, but not one of them is the sole or primary cause (also remember that Clinton won the popular vote, and to generally beware of single-factor explanations):

    • If Stein voters had just held their noses and voted for Clinton, she might have won (she’d have won 2 of the 4 or so states she needed to win, anyway).
    • If Sanders had been the Democratic candidate, he’d have won.
    • If white women didn’t vote their race over their gender, Trump would have lost.
    • If people of color had turned out in the numbers they did for Obama, Clinton would have won.
    • If snooty liberal elite Democrats knew how to connect with the issues and concerns of the white working class, Clinton would have won.
    • If whites weren’t so willing to abide racism, Trump would have lost.
    • If the Democratic party were more concerned with the issues of people of color, Clinton would have won.
    • If generations of left activists hadn’t decried electoral politics as inherently corrupt and and worthless, Trump would have lost.

So, do something, and don’t spend too much energy telling people what *they* ought or (especially) what they ought NOT to do (unless you think it will be genuinely harmful).  I’ve seen lots of analyses of what “we” ought to do now, and comebacks from people who feel that that’s the wrong strategy.  I think it’s normal and right and good that we’re all just trying to figure things out and disagreeing some, but I want my energy and my allies’ energy to go towards making things better, in any way we can, rather than stopping each other from doing stuff.   For example, there are lots of calls for empathy/understanding/connecting with Trump voters.  For some of us, especially those of us who don’t feel directly threatened by the hate that Trump’s victory has unleashed, I think that’s really important. But lots of people, especially people of color and immigrants and survivors of sexual assault and abuse and Muslims and people with disabilities, just for a few examples, have no interest whatsoever in empathy with people who just voted for someone who incites (and brags about) violence against them or their communities. If you feel you can’t connect with Trump supporters right now, no one should ask you to. But if you feel you can empathize/connect with/understand a Trump voter, one of the ones who wasn’t (intentionally) in it for the racism & misogyny, great, that’s work to be done (as long as it’s not validating racism/misogyny/violence etc; in fact the first step might be calling on those Trump voters to disavow the current wave of Trump-emboldened violence, and calling on Trump himself to do so as well).

So what should you do? First, I think there’s a small but non-zero chance that some electors from states that were narrow Trump victories (or wide ones, for that matter) could refuse to vote for Trump; I’m not sure who would be President if that actually happened, but I think any predictable competent Republican would be safer for this country than Trump, and Clinton of course would be far better. The electoral college was designed as a bulwark against direct democracy, both as a compromise with the slave states and to protect the Presidency from someone unfit to hold it. So there’s a petition on Change.org that has already 3.5 million signatures, and this page explaining how to contact electors directly. Asking electors to be “faithless” is well within the rules of our democracy, so I’m OK with it. And/or focus on things that might get Trump impeached ASAP or delegitimize his presidency further, like his dealings with Russia or his fraud trial.

Still, I think we can be pretty sure Trump will be our next President. So, given that, I think the most important thing is first to tend to yourself and your community, and to figure out ways to make sure you and the people around you are as safe and protected as can be.  That might mean going to rallies and protests and community gatherings, or it might mean just being by yourself or with your close friends and family.  More concrete things to ensure your safety and the safety of people in your community include:

·         taking self-defense classes (here’s the program I used to work with in Philadelphia)

·         wearing safety pins to announce you’re an ally/safe person for people who are being targeted

·         offering to walk people home (that one’s from New York; if you have the skills & time to organize a matching service for elsewhere, that’s something you could do *right now*)

·         intervening in harassment or violence when you see it

·         checking out which rights are pretty safe, and which you may lose as a queer or trans person and working to shore up your legal protections

·         donating to help others shore up their protections (that’s a trans-specific one, there must be others for other groups)

·         stockpiling birth control and hormones and Plan B, in case of ACA repeal or the loss of funding for trans and reproductive health care and abortion

That’s not a complete list at all, but this is a really really comprehensive crowd-sourced list.

Medium-to-longer term, where you put your anti-Trump, pro-equality social justice energy is going to be different for everyone, but the good news (especially for people who haven’t been politically active before and might not know this) is that there are many, many organizations that have already been working hard to make things better in all the areas where Trump wants to make things worse.  We can’t all work with all the organizations and causes, so donate or get involved where you think you can be the most use on the issue you’re most fired up about or concerned with.  A few possibilities:

    1. Southern Poverty Law Center works against hate groups & hate crimes.
    2. Planned Parenthood supports reproductive rights and healthcare.
    3. Standing Up for Racial Justice is an organization for white people who want to work against racism, as allies to people-of-color-led organizations.
    4. 350.org for fighting climate change.
    5. Presente.org is for Latinx power.
    6. The Injustice Boycott is against police violence.
    7. The Courage Campaign has a resist-Trump pledge & organizing tool; they work on a variety of progressive issues.
    8. Work on and in the Democratic Party:

                                                              i.      Bernie Sanders is calling on Democrats to move to the left and elect Keith Ellison head of the DNC,

                                                            ii.      Kamala Harris has pledged to stand up to Trump in the Senate

                                                          iii.      So has Harry Reid

                                                          iv.      Credo has a petition calling on Democrats to fight Trump

                                                            v.      And it’s never too early to start organizing for the 2018 midterms.

That’s a lot, and it’s by no means everything you could or do. But what I hope is that we, all of us, will avoid some of the stumbling blocks that could keep us from doing everything we can to oppose Trump and his policies. We can all contribute to work for as just, fair and safe a country as possible, for ourselves and for those more vulnerable than we are. We won’t do it perfectly, and we won’t all agree or want to work on the same things, but there is so much to be done and so many ways to be involved; there is room and need for all of us.