A Beginner’s Guide to Activism: Three Concrete Things You Can Do To Fight Back Against the Trump Administration
My conversations with friends are beginning to fall into a familiar pattern. For example, when I met a good girlfriend for a Pilates class last week, the first thing she said was, “Have you seen the latest news about Trump? I’m so mad! I’ve never been this political before, but now, I’m pissed.”
I’m pissed, too. I was already devastated by the results of the election, and the first few days of 45’s presidency have shattered any illusion that the rhetoric he spewed throughout his candidacy was merely bluster. From the immigration ban, to the subsequent and sudden firing of acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates, to his reported efforts to roll back LGBT protections,
to his contentious interactions with some of the US’ closest allies, to the repeated attempts to undermine and delegitimize the press, it’s clear that Trump is every bit as dangerous as we feared.
I’m mad. I’m sad. And I’m frightened. I’ve already written about my feelings on the voter apathy that contributed to Trump’s election, and how I plan to do much more come the next election. But we have a long way to go before then.
This election has birthed a multitude of baby activists, inspiring a strong desire to make the jump from being simply informed to being involved. But when you’re brand new to the world of political action/activism, how exactly do you make that leap? Where and how do you start?
I’ve been looking into this, talking to friends about this, and doing quite a bit of soul-searching on this myself. Here are three concrete steps I plan to take to dive confidently into a more politically active life.
Step One: Do Something
“I have been guilty on a few counts, you know. My Senator, Kamala Harris, has been very vocal about when she is standing up to certain things. And so, for example, if I see her tweet that she's going to do her best to block a certain nominee, I don't call her office. And then I saw an email from a friend of mine saying that she reached out to Dianne Feinstein's office – another generally pretty progressive senator from my state – but they were like, listen, we decide how hard to push on something based on the number of emails we get. And so if you don't email, even if your senator is on the same page as you, they don't know that it's a priority for you. And so that was a real wake-up call for me that even if my senator is on the right page and is telling me that we're on the same page, I still need to write the email, and keep standing up so that we don’t get these people confirmed or these policies passed.”
– Ann Friedman, Call Your Girlfriend podcast #77, “Executive Disorder,” 42:47
It was so refreshing to hear Ann Friedman, journalist, politically active human, and co-host of one of my fave podcasts, Call Your Girlfriend, admit that even she has found herself wondering just how much her calls and emails to her senators matter from time to time. And the anecdote she shared on a recent episode of her podcast underscores how much your actions really do count. But now that we’ve established the importance of contacting your elected officials, how do you go about doing it?
The organizers of the Jan. 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington recently launched a handy new campaign, “10 Actions for the First 100 Days,” which serves as a simple, straightforward guidebook to push back against the administration. For instance, the first of their ten actions is to write a postcard to your senators, and they take all of the guesswork out of it – including providing downloadable, printable postcards you can use.
Not sure what to write? Check out the awesome templates created and shared by the brilliant Maryanna Quigless, here. Just pick a topic that’s important to you, and write.
Don’t feel like going out to buy stamps? Emails work just fine.
Rather call than write? Check out this step-by-step guide to calling your representatives from Refinery29.
Not sure how to contact them? Phone numbers, email addresses/forms and mailing addresses for all of the senators of the 115th Congress can be found here. You can also find your representatives by searching your zip code here.
Wondering where your representatives stand on the issues that matter to you? The Washington Post created an amazing resource – type in your zip code, and they’ll tell you where your local officials stand on the immigration ban, Obamacare, and Trump’s candidate picks. They also provide the rep’s phone numbers to make voicing your opinions a breeze. FiveThirtyEight created a tool that tracks how often each member of the House and Senate votes with or against 45. You can also check out The Campaign Promise, which serves as a crowdsourced scorecard for the campaign promises of each official elected in November 2016.
Step Two: Donate Your Time, Your Money, Or Anything Else You Have to Give
Another great way to affect change (and do something positive in the midst of all of this negativity) is to contribute to the organizations who support and fight for the causes that are being threatened by the new administration. Have extra time, or a skill you can offer? Contact the organization whose mission is closest to your heart and look for opportunities to volunteer. Can you spare a few extra dollars? Make a donation towards change.
If you don’t have a particular organization in mind just yet, take a look at this super helpful list compiled by the folks at Racked.com, which will provide a great start. The list includes info on such causes as the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Lives Matter, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Vote.org, among numerous others.
Step Three: Stay Informed – But Also Stay Sane
It’s very tempting to turn away from all of the negativity in the news, and hide under a proverbial blanket until the next election. However, being uninformed is part of what got us into this mess in the first place. It’s important that we stay abreast of what’s happening in the administration so that we can fight back effectively.
This means consuming news from multiple news sources – and not just the multiple links that appear on our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds. Getting a sense of the news from several different outlets will help provide a more complete picture of what’s happening, and ensure that we’re hearing differing perspectives on the same issue.
This may sound like an incredibly time-intensive or laborious process, but it doesn’t have to be. My current routine is to scan my daily newsletter from The Skimm when I wake up, listen to NPR (via the NPR One app) as I get ready for the day, visit The New York Times’ website while I’m at work, scan The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal a few times a week, listen to podcasts that often touch on politics on my drive home, such as Call Your Girlfriend, This American Life and the NPR Politics Podcast, and catch The Daily Show from time to time. Push notifications from my CNN app also help to ensure I’m aware of any late breaking news or major new developments as they happen.
Okay, okay, that kind of sounds like a lot, and I’m admittedly a news junkie. But the moral of the story is that given the multitude of mediums available to us, it’s actually pretty easy to incorporate several news sources into your regular content regimen.
You may have noticed that many of the media I read/watch/listen to are known to skew a bit liberal – regularly checking out news coverage that tends to have a more conservative bent is something that I’m trying to work on. Perhaps I can work The Economist and National Review into the mix.
What’s on your political activism agenda?