How to Stay Engaged During the Trump Years Even If You Don’t Know Where to Start

Updated 11/21/2016, 16:20 PST: added information about becoming more involved in the political process and moved it to its own section.

The recent election of President-elect Donald Trump has been an Earth-shaking event for many. To say the least, the reasons why he was elected are extremely complicated. I won’t go over that here.

What I will go over is what you can do about it. For all of us — no matter who you voted for — there is a lot at stake following this election.

Here’s a quick list of the things you can do now.

The Absolute Basics

  1. Stay engaged. The worst thing you can do is disengage from politics. You’re not allowed to use the old refrain “my vote doesn’t matter” anymore: at the time of this writing, Trump only won Michigan by 11,612 votes. What we saw was far from a sweeping victory, and it’s clear that many who could’ve voted chose not to. If you haven’t already, read Trump’s 100-day plan to understand his agenda.
  2. Stay informed and subscribe to at least one credible news source. Many Americans no longer trust newspapers or TV news, so 42% of Americans get their news from their Facebook feed. Misinformation and “fake news” was a major problem in this election and continues to be a huge challenge, so it’s critical that we support legitimate news sources that provide factually-accurate reporting. Most newspapers are just $10/mo for digital subscriptions, and I recommend The New York Times and The Washington Post, or non-profits like ProPublica, PBS, and NPR.
  3. Be supportive. A lot of people are scared right now. Many of them need the support of someone just like you. Even though we don’t know what the weeks, months, and years ahead will bring, we still have each other: millions of like-minded people who will fight for our collective future.
  4. Be kind and listen. America is a large, diverse, and complicated country. We have a violently checkered and oppressive past to be sure, but there’s also a lot of great things about this country. It is time for us to come together. Check yourself the next time you denigrate “Hillary voters,” “Trump voters,” or write off one of the groups as being all one thing because people voted for many, many different reasons. Get to know someone on a human level who doesn’t share your opinions. Now more than ever, we need to find common ground. Plus, calling someone a “racist” will never change their mind whether it’s true or not.
  5. Support non-profits that promote causes you care about. Many causes that we Americans have fought for are in jeopardy. Civil rights, voting rights, environment, tax reform, reproductive rights, gender equality, education — they’re all in danger of being rolled back. It’s likely that you’re underestimating just how sweeping the changes are, so it’s a critical time to start or keep donating to the non-profits you care about. You can find ratings and listings of charities at CharityNavigator.org (email me if you have questions). Volunteering for local charities and causes is a great way to get involved in your community and help out, too.
  6. Be measured in your response. This tip comes from a very well-respected global authority on Democracy. As he points out, we need room to escalate our concerns. Avoid all-or-nothing statements, and don’t respond disproportionately to what’s happening. If you do, people will become desensitized to real and legitimate objections, then choose not to listen to you when the alarm bells should really be going off.

Becoming Involved in Politics

No, I’m not asking you to run for office, though I’d encourage you to if you’ve thought about it. There are dozens of other ways you can get involved, like signing petitions from sites like MoveOn.org or Change.org. You can make phone calls or canvas for local or national elections, and you can call your Congressperson or Senator to tell them about an issue you care about. Getting involved in local issues at the City, County, or State levels is a great way to participate as well. Remember, they work for you, so pick up the phone and they’ll listen (phone is better than emails because they’re required to listen!).

Fighting the Attorney General and Supreme Court Nominations

If you disagree with the appointments of Attorney General (Jeff Sessions, R-AL) or the Supreme Court Nomination that is forthcoming, there is something you can do. The biggest thing is to mobilize people in the districts of Republican Judiciary Committee Members. Check MoveOn and Change for help with this, too, because they’ll definitely created a concerted effort too. You can also promote specific policy criticisms of the candidates through concerned groups. So for instance, Jeff Sessions’ documented racist remarks would be of concern to the ACLU and NAACP, so you can participate in organizing or petitions through then. Keep in mind too that the Republican party is fractured over key issues, and some members are more moderate than others.

Participating in Policy

Similar to the steps outlined in the previous paragraph, policy can be influenced through interest groups, non-profits, and directly through elected officials. Policy is a terribly messy and long process, so even though Trump has big plans for a 100-day plan, he can’t circumvent the legislative process. Signing onto petitions or pushing interest groups to weigh in creates a block of votes with an opinion — and elected officials need votes. It actually matters. Similarly, calling constituents of target Senators or Congresspeople will help to send the message that votes are at stake. A direct quote from someone in the know of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

…in this Congress we will mostly be playing defense and building the argument for democratic principles at large.
Staff in the Senate hear about every single communication you make. We tally them and use that information in our arguments with other offices and convey that to our boss. If you are a constituent, we view that as a possible vote lost — and that is extremely important.

The Real Change Comes From…

The biggest changes and most impactful action we can make will come in the ballot box in 2018 and 2020. That’s why it’s so critical that you stay engaged to promote your values and show others how they can make a difference, too.

Now a question for you: What are you doing to stay involved and push for change? Tell me and other readers in the comments below.

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