Ideas for where we go next
The Trump presidency will be horrifying. Right now, just a week after the election, we on the left are naturally talking about what went wrong and how to fix it. This conversation is necessary but premature—and I worry that it is obscuring a more important conversation we need to have, about what steps we should be urging our city and state governments to be taking right now to defend against the abuses of the Trump administration. And in our despair, we are not seeing some steps we can and should take, especially on climate issues, to make up for ground lost at the federal level.
First, until all the votes are counted and, more importantly, until the voter files update and we can dive in and see who turned out to vote, who didn’t, and who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016, we can’t have an honest conversation about what went wrong, and how to fix it. When we do have the data, we need to be honest and brutal with ourselves, our party and our movement—but for right now, our energy is better spent elsewhere.
I also don’t want to cover how we stand up to Trump and Ryan in DC. I tend to agree with Markos Moulitsas, and think we should strongly oppose everything Trump and Ryan try to pass. This can be especially effective if Trump and Ryan attempt to end Medicare. I certainly believe we should be wary about signing onto any Trump infrastructure spending proposals, and should expect them to be boondoggles and roads to nowhere. But many other people are having this conversation, and I do not feel like I have a lot to add here right now.
Instead, I want to cover what we can and must do in our own cities and states to defend against the devastating impact of Trump’s presidency.
Defending and protecting our rights from Trump
Again, the Trump years will be horrifying—in some ways we can’t predict, but in some ways we can. We can expect a conservative Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. We can expect Trump to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. We can expect a Trump DoJ to turn a blind eye on police killings of people of color, and to crack down on protests. We can expect Trump to systematically dismantle all the efforts we’ve made to grow the clean energy economy and to pull us back from as many of our foreign commitments to fighting climate change as he can. While I do not expect Trump to overturn marriage equality, with Pence as VP we should at a minimum expect national legislation allowing businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community. Last Wednesday morning, some organization somewhere started the process of fast tracking Friedrichs 2.0—and labor will be under assault more than ever.
I cover all this (with the caveat that Trump will do many more, worse things than the above) not to depress us, but to say that these are what we should start preparing ourselves to defend against now. Below are a series of ideas, some mine, many collected from folks on twitter (most significantly twitter.com/Taniel).
To protect abortion access, we can’t wait for the supreme court to act. In states where we can, we should start passing ballot initiatives writing abortion access into state constitutions. In states where we can’t, we should pass laws protecting the right to choose—so if and when the supreme court does overturn Roe v Wade, protections are already in place. We should enact similar LGBT protections. Most states’ legislative sessions begin in January—so tell your state representative or state senator to get to work.
Successful action to stop mass deportation will be hard, but not impossible. One path is following the lead of the LAPD, whose chief has said his police department will refuse to help Trump deport immigrants. The LAPD taking this move will jeopardize its federal funding, but the LA city council, anticipating this, may be able to identify other sources of funding. We can and should pressure police departments and city governments across the country to do the same.
A Trump DoJ is a genuinely scary thought, especially as we have seen how many of the domestic security services in this country fully back his agenda. And there’s a reason private prison stock shot up once Trump won. Defending against this will be tough, but here are some ideas: We can continue to campaign against elected District Attorneys who refuse to prosecute cops who shoot unarmed people of color. We can pressure state legislatures to end money bail and other defendant-funded court proceedings. And we should continue to push municipal police departments to enact the specific policy changes outlined by Campaign Zero.
While sadly a Trump supreme court will allow him to expand voter ID laws, even some Democratic-controlled states have restrictive voting right laws—and these laws should be changed. Colorado moved to an all mail-in ballot system in 2013, and every state where we hold the legislature should follow CO’s lead. And we must end felony disenfranchisement wherever we can. It is a moral failing in this country that the two whitest states in the US are the only two with 0% disenfranchisement (Maine and Vermont). This is of course worse in red states, but California, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Washington all restrict voting rights for people who have served their time. This must change.
With Trump likely to dismantle what progress we have made on the federal level, we can and must take steps to combat climate change on the state and municipal level. Just last Tuesday, a carbon tax initiative got 42% of the vote in Washington—despite being opposed by many enviro and social justice organizations (the whole process around Initiative 732 was a bit of a mess). A better coalition-building process could have gotten it passed, and the movement should pursue this strategy in Washington and elsewhere in 2018.
States can and should increase renewable energy mandates. Cities can too—Boulder voted to divest itself from the regional energy utility company and is creating it’s own energy utility with more power coming from renewable energy. While this process has taken a while (Boulder voters initially approved the measure in 2011), this could serve as a model for cities across the country. And there currently exist organizations like the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, generating research and best practices for how cities can mitigate climate change. We should be pressuring our city councilors and mayors to step up their games.
While Tuesday was generally terrible, Virginia voters did reject a Right-to-Work amendment, and we won minimum wage victories across the country. We should continue that work wherever we can in 2018, and look for cities like Seattle willing to pass $15 minimum wage initiatives, as well as paid sick leave and family leave measures.
We need to accept that we as Democrats do not have much power in the federal government. That does not mean that we do not fight Trump tooth and nail, but it means that most of the fights we pick in DC, we will lose. We must start working now on a state-and-city based strategy to protect our rights from Trump and make whatever gains we can.
Finally, we need to channel our outrage and anger into municipal elections starting this spring. Many of the above ideas, especially at the municipal level, can be politically costly, and local elected officials won’t take these steps without pressure.
I don’t mean just calling your local and state elected officials and voicing your opinion (although you should do that too). I mean getting involved in the groups already organizing on these issues. I mean founding them where necessary. I mean holding rallies. I mean canvassing and phone calling. I mean sitting down with the staff and, where possible, elected officials themselves and directly making this case.
The easy way out is for Democratic leaders to say that under Trump, they can’t do anything. Don’t let them. If our local leaders won’t step up, we need to replace them with leaders who will.
And from a practitioner standpoint, we need to start figuring out how to engage and turn out people outraged by Trump in local and state races now—because this is where we can make a difference in the next four years.
Let’s get to work.